Leaders Honor Hotel Industry Standouts

WASHINGTON, DC—The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) revealed its 2017 Stars of the Industry—the nation’s top employees and properties in the hospitality and lodging industry—who will be honored for outstanding accomplishments, service and leadership.

Jenna Bush Hager, contributing correspondent on NBC’s Today Show and an editor-at-large for Southern Living magazine, hosted the ceremony at the Capital Hilton and presented the winners with their awards, alongside industry executives, AHLA President and CEO Katherine Lugar, and the organization’s officers: AHLA Chair Mark Carrier, president of B.F. Saul Hospitality Group; Vice Chair Geoff Ballotti, president and CEO of Wyndham Hotel Group; Jon Bortz, AHLA secretary and treasurer and president & CEO, Pebblebrook Hotel Trust; and Jim Abrahamson, AHLA immediate past chair.

“AHLA’s Stars of the Industry awards are the most important we bestow every year. People ask all the time: What’s the best part about working in the hospitality industry? Very simply—it’s the people,” Lugar commented as she opened the ceremony. “And tonight is about the best of the best. The people who go above and beyond to serve their guests day in and day out… The people who show compassion in the way they work and have a smile on their face, through it all.”

The winners—chosen from nearly 500 nominations from all sectors of the industry and across the country—showed dedication, promise and passion for service in specific categories, ranging from emerging leader, to mentors who advance women in the workplace, to excellence in innovation and top employee and general manager of the year, according to the organization.

In addition to awarding the top industry employees, AHLA also presented two members of Congress the inaugural Spirit of Hospitality award for their role in advancing the travel and tourism industry, which is responsible for one in nine jobs in the United States. This year’s awards will go to U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who will be in attendance during the ceremony.

“As an industry that supports some eight million jobs and is represented in every congressional district in America, the hotel industry is a driver of the economy at all levels of government,” Lugar said. “What happens in Washington reverberates throughout the country. That’s why we felt it was important to create a dedicated award that celebrates members of Congress who embody the qualities shared by those of in hospitality: compassion, empathy and service.”

Here are AHLA’s 2017 Stars of the Industry winners:

North Star Employee of the Year: Maria Ortiz, Restaurant Supervisor, Wyndham Houston Medical Center Hotel & Suites, Houston

Innovation Award: The Inn at Longwood Medical, Boston, MA

GM of the Year for a Large Property: John Evans, Silverado Resort & Spa, Napa, CA

GM of the Year for a Small Property: Craig Poole, DoubleTree by Hilton, Reading, PA

Paving the Way Award: Marina MacDonald, chief marketing officer, Red Roof Inn, Columbus, OH

Stevan Porter Emerging Hospitality Leader of the Year: Jessica Gaskin, director of housekeeping, Omni San Francisco, San Francisco

North Star Employee of the Year Finalist: Lisalani Baybayan, Regency Club Concierge, Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, Lahaina, HI

North Star Employee of the Year Finalist: Derrick Behlin, Houseperson, Courtyard Marriott Convention Center, Washington, D.C.