Laura Lee Blake was named president/CEO of AAHOA earlier this year.

Empowering Women

A pair of major lodging industry associations, AAHOA (Asian-American Hotel Owners Association) and AH&LA (American Hotel & Lodging Association, continue to work on behalf of women introducing programs this summer aimed at both elevating and protecting them, respectively.

AAHOA, the nation’s largest hotel owners association, with nearly 20,000 members who own 60% of the hotels in the United States, announced the launch of ElevateHER, an initiative aimed at elevating, educating, and empowering the women hoteliers of AAHOA and across the industry.

“AAHOA has been proud to celebrate the important work women are doing at every level of hospitality, and this initiative further underscores our commitment to the women of AAHOA and elevating their contributions to the industry,” said AAHOA President & CEO Laura Lee Blake. “While there’s still much work to be done, AAHOA recognizes the significant strides women have made to be seen at industry events, heard in the boardroom, and valued in the workplace – ElevateHER celebrates these accomplishments and will further drive our association’s work around elevating and supporting women in the industry.”

In what has been a predominantly male-dominated industry, AAHOA understands how important it is to foster, promote, and empower women entrepreneurs – and the impact that ElevateHER can have to help women shatter the glass ceiling and pursue their own entrepreneurial journey.

“Women play an active role in all areas of hospitality – from welcoming guests at the front desk to providing the best in housekeeping services to owning and operating hotel properties, women hoteliers continue to step up to leave their mark in the industry,” said AAHOA Female Director Eastern Division Lina Patel, CHO. “I’m proud to work alongside the entire AAHOA Team to launch the ElevateHER program and give women hoteliers the chance to learn from and inspire each other, and set everyone up for years of progress and success.”

AAHOA’s ElevateHER program will offer networking and educational opportunities for women hoteliers and hospitality industry professionals, and elevate AAHOA to be the foremost resource and advocate for women in the industry. This initiative will ultimately support all women in their endeavors and ensure more stability and opportunities for generations to come.

As part of our initial launch of this initiative, AAHOA is hosting a Women Hoteliers ElevateHER Conference, October 26-27, 2022, in Cincinnati, OH, which will focus on bringing together AAHOA’s engaged community of women hoteliers for education, inspiration, and empowerment.

Meanwhile, late last month honor of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, the American Hotel & Lodging Foundation (AHLA Foundation), ECPAT-USA and Marriott International launched a trafficking prevention training program for the hotel industry, titled “Recognize and Respond: Addressing Human Trafficking In The Hospitality Industry.”

This new training program was developed by Marriott in collaboration with non-profit organizations and survivor experts. The program was donated by Marriott to ECPAT-USA and is now free and available to the hotel industry through ECPAT-USA’s online learning platform thanks to the support of the AHLA Foundation.

Building on the foundation of the “Your Role in Preventing Trafficking” training, released to the industry in 2020, this new training features unique learning paths for associates and managers around increased guidance on responding to potential trafficking situations and interacting with potential victims.

Furthering training and education to raise awareness about human trafficking is a main goal of No Room for Trafficking, an AHLA Foundation national awareness program that builds on the industry’s ongoing commitment to unite the hotel and lodging industry in thought leadership and action to drive forward the next phase of anti-trafficking efforts.

With the launch of this new training, “Recognize and Respond: Addressing Human Trafficking in the Hospitality Industry,” the AHLA Foundation has launched a challenge to all industry members to extend their training efforts to include this program and help bring the industry one step closer to ending human trafficking.


McKibbon Hospitality Adds AC Hotel Gainesville Downtown To Management Portfolio

GAINESVILLE, FLMcKibbon Hospitality, an award-winning leader in hotel management, is pleased to announce the newest addition to its management portfolio: AC Hotel Gainesville Downtown. The 144-room, pet friendly property is primely located in midtown Gainesville within the mixed-use Standard at Gainesville complex providing unbeatable access to the University of Florida and Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as well as a myriad of local restaurants and shops.

The new management contract expands McKibbon’s presence in the Gainesville market where the company currently manages two additional hotels: Hilton Garden Inn Gainesville & Homewood Suites Gainesville. It also builds upon McKibbon’s portfolio of managed AC Hotels, joining the ranks of AC Hotel Asheville Downtown, AC Hotel Charlotte City Center, and AC Hotel Jackson Ridgeland with a McKibbon-developed AC Hotel Orlando Airport slated to break ground later this year.

“We are excited and grateful for the opportunity to manage AC Hotel Gainesville Downtown – an amazing property in an amazing location,” said Randy Hassen, president of McKibbon Hospitality. “We look forward to continuing to serve the Gainesville community and welcoming our guests with warm hospitality and the highest level of service.”

Appealing to travelers seeking refined accommodations and amenities, AC Hotel Gainesville Downtown’s spacious, European-inspired guestrooms and stylish communal spaces boast sleek design elements, modern furnishings and carefully curated local artwork. Guests are invited to wake up with the AC Kitchen, serving a daily Spanish-inspired breakfast and relax and unwind at the AC Lounge with tapas as well as locally brewed craft beer and handcrafted cocktails including AC’s signature gin & tonic.

Venturing to the rooftop, guests can work up a sweat in the hotel’s state-of-the-art fitness center or make a splash at the inviting outdoor pool flanked by a firepit and plush lounge seating with panoramic views of UF’s campus. In addition to the rooftop, the hotel offers an additional 1,183 sq ft of total event space across three flexible meeting rooms, providing the perfect venue for family reunions, business meetings, weddings, and graduation parties.

AC Hotel Gainesville Downtown adds 144 new rooms to McKibbon’s overall portfolio, bringing the total number of hotels managed throughout the U.S. to 97 with over 11,000 total guestrooms.

Change At The Top

A pair of hotel management companies, OTO Development and Twin Bridges Hospitality, tapped new leaders yesterday to help bring their respective companies to the next level in terms of growth.

Todd Turner has been named CEO of Spartanburg, SC-based OTO Development, taking over the role from fellow co-founder Corry Oakes, who passed away unexpectedly on August 7. Oakes and Turner, along with Jim Ovenden, founded their namesake hotel development and hospitality management company in May 2004 alongside George Dean Johnson Jr. and the late H. Wayne Huizenga.

“Corry and Todd worked side by side for 18 years to take OTO Development from an idea into a premier lodging company,” says Geordy Johnson, President of The Johnson Group. “Todd is a seasoned, inspiring leader who will carry their shared vision forward.”

Turner previously served as VP/Real Estate at OTO Development, which is part of The Johnson Group. He began his career developing real estate at WJB Blockbuster Video and then held positions of increasing responsibility at Extended Stay America.

As VP/Real Estate at the NYSE-listed company, he helped turn ESA into the fastest-growing owner-operated hotel chain in lodging history prior to its sale to Blackstone, according to the company.

“I will forever mourn the loss of my dear friend Corry. I have had the tremendous honor and privilege of working alongside the finest man and greatest leader I know,” Turner says. “OTO’s experienced leadership team embodies a culture that reflects Corry’s incredible qualities, and we are well-positioned to carry forward the legacy he set in motion.”

Meanwhile, Jillian Katcher has been named President of Newport, CA-based Twin Bridges Hospitality.

Katcher comes to Twin Bridges Hospitality from her most recent post as Co-Head of Hospitality Investments at Cascade Asset Management Co., the investment office for the Gates family and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust. She held this position since 2019, where she focused on managing the firm’s interest in Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts.

Katcher began her career in management consulting. When a project for Starwood Hotels revealed her passion for hospitality, she pursued a unique journey where she garnered experience from housekeeping to headquarters, according to the company. After working with Marriott International to launch an on-property operations immersion for MBAs, she transitioned to the company’s HQ where she held various leadership roles in food and beverage strategy, consumer insights, and global brand and marketing. ​

According to Twin Bridges Hospitality, in her new role as President, Katcher will focus on taking the organization to its next level of growth while maintaining the company’s unique asset management style.

“It’s an exciting time to be in hospitality,” said Katcher. “Travelers are back in full force, seeking discovery, meaning and connection, and the Twin Bridges portfolio of hotels redefines the bar for select service. I’m honored to have the opportunity to help grow this business and build on its differentiating focus of inspired asset stewardship.”

AAHOA Commends Florida Attorney General Crackdown On Vacation Rental Scams

ATLANTA–AAHOA, the nation’s largest hotel owners association, commends Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s crackdown on vacation rental scams.

Attorney General Moody tweeted that she was kicking off a Summer Scam Series with a focus on fake vacation rental ads. She included tips to avoid rental scams and announced a new consumer protection series about vacation rental scams.

AAHOA stands behind Attorney General Moody and her dedication to protecting communities and travelers.

“Florida’s kickoff of the Summer Scam Series with a focus on fake vacation rental ads is a much-needed first step regarding short-term rental regulation,” said AAHOA President & CEO, Laura Lee Blake. “We must be aggressive when it comes to fake postings offering vacation rental properties, and hold the scammers accountable. AAHOA commends Attorney General Moody’s crackdown, and remains committed to protecting all our valued tourists and visitors.”

Attorney General Moody’s office issued a press release describing how the scammers behind these ads are taking advantage of unknowing tourists.

It describes how these scammers:

  • Create fake listings
  • Often request an application fee or security deposit
  • Rental listing disappears along with the consumer’s money after they pay
  • Vacationers show up only to find that the actual owners of the property have no record or intention of renting

“Florida is one of the top tourist destinations in America,” said AAHOA Chairman Neal Patel. “Preventing travelers from falling for this scheme falls under AAHOA’s mission to advance and protect the business interests of hotel owners, who are committed to the reputable property owners in the hospitality industry.”

AAHOA urges all travelers to take extra precautions, pay attention to red flags, and report anything suspicious when renting a vacation home to ensure you’re getting the vacation you’re hoping and paying for.

String Of Acquisitions

While the hotel acquisition market has cooled a bit in recent months, there has been an uptick in activity within the past two weeks led by an international alliance that will bring 15 hotels to Wyndham’s Registry Collection.

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Palladium Hotel Group, one of the largest Spanish hotel companies, announced a commercial alliance that will add more than 6,800 rooms to Wyndham’s Registry Collection. The 14 all-inclusive TRS Hotels and Grand Palladium Hotels & Resorts managed by Palladium Hotel Group are located in Mexico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Brazil and will join Wyndham’s portfolio under a long-term agreement leveraging Wyndham’s distribution and bringing Wyndham’s all-inclusive resort portfolio to 26 hotels.

“Expanding Registry Collection Hotels continues Wyndham’s global growth in the luxury space and grants more travelers access to new, preeminent experiences in some of the most remarkable destinations,” said Geoffrey A. Ballotti, president and CEO of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, in a statement. “These unique, all-inclusive hotels are designed to ensure that guests—whether redeeming Wyndham Rewards points or booking directly—will enjoy an elevated vacation.”

Meanwhile, NewcrestImage has entered a definitive agreement with a joint venture between Highgate and Cerberus to acquire four LaQuinta-branded properties which together total 696 rooms.  The properties include the LaQuinta Inn & Suites at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) that marks NewcrestImage’s first gateway location in California.

Closing took place on one hotel—the LaQuinta Inn & Suites Irving DFW North, located two miles from DFW International Airport—while closing is expected in August for the other three hotels: LaQuinta Inn & Suites Anaheim; LaQuinta Inn Phoenix North; and LaQuinta Inn & Suites LAX.

“These properties are uniquely-positioned in strategic destination locations, making them very appealing as we structure a strong investment-based portfolio,” said Mehul Patel, Managing Partner & CEO of NewcrestImage, in a statement.

The company also in late June acquired the 175-room Cambria Hotel in Southlake, TX, located six miles from DFW International Airport and five miles from the Gaylord Texan Convention Center.

Equinox Hospitality, a hotel investment and management firm has acquired four properties in Texas from Sonesta International Hotels Corporation. Equinox Hotel Management, a subsidiary of Equinox Hospitality, operates the properties.

“Our growth strategy is to source and execute top-quality deals in high-growth markets and with top-tier joint venture partners that share the same values as us,” stated Adam Suleman, principal and executive vice president of Equinox Hospitality. “This approach should keep us on a track to grow our portfolio with strong performing assets while continuing to build on our longstanding industry reputation and legacy as a family-owned business. Acquisitions such as this one are perfect examples of our strategy in action.”

Totaling 463 keys, the four properties — Sonesta ES Suites Dallas Richardson, Sonesta Select Dallas Richardson, Sonesta Simply Suites Dallas Richardson, and Sonesta Simply Suites Fort Worth Fossil Creek — are located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.


The Driskill Brings Historic Tour Guide On Board With New Hire

AUSTIN, TX–Historic and legendary Texas hotel, The Driskill, has announced today the addition of Nori Meisner to the hotel’s staff as historic tour guide and special events concierge. The new hire further solidifies the hotel’s commitment to offering guests an even closer look at the unique role the hotel has played in the history of Austin, Texas and of the country.

As historic tour guide, Meisner will bring to life the stories and artwork contained within the walls of the gorgeous hotel, which was built by cattle baron Colonel Jesse Driskill in 1886. She’ll lead guests along the guided history tour, as part of the hotel’s Discover Driskill’s History package which also includes a stay on the historic side of the hotel, afternoon tea for two in the 1886 Cafe & Bakery, and a special take-home amenity. Guests will hear about LBJ and Lady Bird’s first date over breakfast and the years following celebrating election results at the hotel, and they’ll experience the eight gold leaf framed Austrian mirrors once a wedding gift from Emperor Maximilian to his wife Carlota.

Born and raised in New York, Meisner’s love for history, unbelievable stories and architecture developed thanks to the richness and vibrancy of New York City. While in Maryland for college, she fell in love with the historic neighborhoods, cobblestone streets and maritime whispers of another historic city, Baltimore. And after arriving in Austin, her appreciation for all that has come before drew her to The Driskill.

“I’m excited to combine my passion for intricate details of special events with my love of history in a place as unique, historic and beautiful as The Driskill,” said Meisner. “I hope to share all of the beauty and presence of the old world with visitors from near and far.”

“We are thrilled to welcome Nori to the team,” said Ashley Famalette, Director of Sales, Marketing and Events. “Her enthusiasm and knowledge of the hotel’s stories and past will create a rich, transportive experience for guests.”