Sunday night was another monumental night in the history of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. As it always does during the International Hotel, Motel & Restaurant Show (IHMRS) in New York City, the association celebrated the past year of its outgoing chair and inaugurated its incoming chair. This year that was the inauguration of Nancy Johnson, executive vice president of development for Carlson Hotels. Johnson becomes just the third woman to serve as chair of the industry’s largest association.
Johnson is the founder of AH&LA’s Women in Lodging (WIL), and she has done more than just about anyone over the years to advance the progress of women as leaders in the hotel industry. As our November cover story, written by Marla Cimini, outlines, women have become a force in an industry that historically had been run by males. Today, approximately two-thirds of the hospitality school students in universities across the United States are women.
Johnson and WIL have played a large role in building that presence in the industry, but Johnson has been a force in the hotel industry on many levels. Her upcoming year as chair of the association is exciting not because, as AH&LA President Joe McInerney pointed out to me recently, she is the third woman to chair the association, but because she has been a proven leader in the advancement of the industry’s interest for many years. I, personally, have only known Nancy Johnson for the last few years that I have covered the industry, but I can attest that there is no one better for the job at this point in time.
As we close out 2011 and move into 2012, we find ourselves staring at a vital election year for the industry. The hotel industry—the entire hospitality and travel industry, actually—is increasingly dealing with governmental affairs issues, such as taxes, ADA regulations, barriers to entry for many international travelers, and helping to get international promotion of the U.S. off on the right foot.
Johnson is a first-rate developer for Carlson Hotels. “I’ve always been comfortable in a hard hat on a construction site,” she told the audience in attendance at Sunday night’s inaugural gala at the Mandarin Oriental in New York City. Johnson’s always been comfortable in the government and political arenas as well. In a year where the industry needs a powerful voice on Capitol Hill, it’s getting one in Johnson, who has learned how to maneuver the D.C. political landscape. With Johnson as chair and the powerful and aggressive AH&LA governmental affairs department leading the way, the lodging industry is well prepared for such an important year in the industry.
“Our voice has been heard loud and clear in Washington on almost 30 separate issues that will shape our future, but I would consider one of the most important accomplishments to have happened behind the scenes—the creation of the Discover America Partnership,” Johnson said upon her inauguration.
As we do every year, Lodging will have an in-depth profile of the newly inaugurated chair, including Johnson's thoughts and plans for her term. You will soon be able to find that profile in the January issue Lodging.
In addition, AH&LA introduced New York hotelier John Fitzpatrick, president and CEO of Fitzpatrick Hotel Group, North America, as secretary/treasurer of the association. Fitzpatrick will serve as association chair in 2014.