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Association Bisnow
July 17, 2008



How do you energize the young members of your industry? It’s an issue we hear all the time as we interview association execs. Last year, the American Hotel and Lodging Association wrestled with it during a strategic planning session. And on July 1 this year, the association unveiled its answer: a special membership category exclusively for the younger crowd, called the “Under 30 Gateway.” We stopped by CEO Joe McInerney’s Metro Center office to feel young again.


Just two weeks in, the Under 30 Gateway has signed up 100 members, free to those working at that AH&LA’s 9,000 member properties and $95/year for others. It has actually had to turn away a few over-30s who’ve tried to sneak in, but like a bouncer checking ID’s, Joe’s enforcing the age limit strictly. Planning started early this year, and in March AH&LA brought its Under 30 Council, peers who will develop programming, to a brainstorming session in D.C. The category’s first official event is an August 13 Webinar on “What Your Boss Knows But Hasn’t Shared – With You.” 


AH&LA is also running a contest asking its Under 30s to write in with proposals on new initiatives they’d implement if they were CEO of the AH&LA, which has $22 million in revenue and publishes Lodging Magazine (as Joe proudly displays). “We were going to ask them what they’d do if they were their boss, but that might’ve caused trouble,” says Joe, who came to AH&LA in 2001 after “flunking retirement.” Before that, he had a 25-year career with Sheraton, retiring as President of the Franchise Division, a stint with Trust House Forte (owners of the Meridian Hotel and the Watergate, among other properties), and even a few years of consulting on hotel developments in Russia.  


Between tales of his world travels, Joe told us the Under 30 Gateway isn’t AH&LA’s first niche membership category. It has already had success with its Women in Lodging group, which hosts speakers and has an online WIL Connect message board. And big names have been drawn to AH&LA’s Multicultural and Diversity Council, including Steve Rudnitsky, CEO of the Wyndham Hotel Group. But what is AH&LA really looking to get out of its Under 30 Gateway program? Joe’s answer: “When they get older, they’re going to say nice things about us.”

Arent Fox
Intelligent Office
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