Beyond business: Making a difference at ALIS
28 JANUARY 2016 7:33 AM
This week there’s more to talk about at ALIS than just hotel business deals, and I think it’s a refreshing change.
I’m in Los Angeles this week at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit, which is always—to me at least—the most buttoned-up, serious conference of the year. Sure, people are still optimistic, but this is a conference where business is getting done, make no mistake about it. So far we saw one major brand launch this week, got details on a merger between two lifestyle brands, and sat down with countless CEOs and other executives to hear about company goals.
But this year there’s something else going on that’s affecting the mood at ALIS, and it’s a positive change. Normally you walk through this conference and see people hunched at tables, talking earnestly, punching at their phones, getting things done. But this year a lot of people are looking up from their phones and looking up at the side of the JW Marriott, where all week long conference attendees have been rappelling from the roof to raise awareness of addiction through the Shatterproof organization.
It’s the second year this event has taken place at ALIS, though the industry has been involved with Shatterproof fundraising for several years (learn more about Shatterproof here). You might know about it, since a lot of people in the industry have been fundraising for the last few weeks. But the connection to the hotel industry goes like this: Gary Mendell, founder and CEO of HEI Hotels & Resorts, lost his son to addiction in 2011. Mendell subsequently founded Shatterproof to work to end the stigma and suffering of addiction. Shatterproof, in partnership with Over The Edge USA, brought the rappelling challenge to ALIS again this year, and it’s amazing to see the people taking the plunge, all in the name of raising awareness.
Seeing the Shatterproof challenge in action this week (and taking part in it myself) reminds me of the countless stories of philanthropy from hotels and companies all over the world. It is so refreshing to me to hear these stories. Sometimes it’s a huge initiative like this one. Other times, it’s a story about a hotel property that donates its used towels to the local animal shelter, or a hotel that hosts after-school programs because the property is a safe haven in a tough neighborhood. The stories go on and on. Small or large, every single one of them makes a difference.
And when we see big philanthropies take center stage, it gets the conversation going.
For example, on Tuesday I had a great conversation with Gerry Lopez, Terry Atkins and some of the other executives at Extended Stay America. We talked about business growth and all the usual topics, but then the conversation naturally turned to philanthropy, because everyone here at ALIS is in that frame of mind this year, it seems.
In 2013 Extended Stay America launched a program called Hotel Keys of Hope in partnership with the American Cancer Society. The brand donates hotel stays to cancer patients and their families to help ease the financial stress of traveling to treatments.
These are just two examples, and I know there are so many more. It’s refreshing to be at a conference like this and have the conversation turn from business at hand to ways like this that the industry is giving back. It’s my personal highlight of the conference.
Please share your stories of your hotel or company giving back in the comments below.
Share of the week
The industry is used to transparent review sites’ impact on the business—hello, TripAdvisor? But in the last few weeks we’ve seen another site take center stage: Whisper, the anonymous “secret-revealing” app that allows people to say whatever they’d like, without revealing their identity.
The latest buzz from Whisper is of course about the hotel industry. Read stories from Travel + Leisure, USA Today’s Road Warrior Voices and the Daily Mail about the latest flurry of activity on Whisper, where hotel employees are sharing some not-so-hospitable secrets about the job.
Is there truth to these assertions? I’m sure there is. This secret-sharing app covers a lot of industries, and hey, we’ve all heard the stories. Hey, at the very least this is a good reminder that constant improvement at the property level must always be top of mind.
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