Top 5 Hotel & Lodging Associations

March 17, 2021
Jeremy Wells

“Your network is your net worth”

Porter Gale

This quote has long been etched onto the hearts of every aspiring entrepreneur. It is no different for those of us in the hospitality industry. If you are a hotel manager, developer, or investor who’s interested in personal and professional growth, networking cannot be ignored. You may be the most passionate and driven entrepreneur, but without a powerful network, it’s likely that you’ll face an uphill battle to reach your desired goals.

As a hotelier, joining hotel associations and travel associations can be a great investment of time, money, and energy. You’ll gain access to exclusive educational resources, conventions and trade shows, hospitality benefits, tips on hotel advocacy, and of course, opportunities to network with hotel industry leaders.

But if you’re reading this, you’ve probably already decided that you want to join one. The question now is, which one? In this article, I list the top five hotel/hospitality associations to consider joining and help you select the one that will be the best fit for you.

1. U.S. Travel Association

For more than 75 years, the U.S. Travel Association has been voicing the concerns of hoteliers like you on Capitol Hill. The biggest plus of joining this association is their illustrative list of members – more than 1,100 members collaborate with the U.S. Travel Association. Needless to say, this brings in a plethora of industry insights such as growth opportunities and advocacy initiatives and gives you a front seat in communications within your industry on matters that most matter to you.

Besides advising the government and administration on travel policies that aim at elevating both inbound and outbound travel, the U.S. Travel Association also educates one and all on the impact that the $2.9 trillion travel industry has on the economy and each of its segments.

Pillar Membership

Get access to several educational opportunities, industry research, and insights with the Pillar Membership i.e. the most basic membership plan. You also get discounts on certain feature events. However, the opportunities for advocacy engagement are limited.

Sustaining Membership

In addition to everything available in the Pillar Membership plan, you get an improved and strategic advocacy engagement along with the Sustaining Membership level.

Association Board Circle

This is where things start getting premium. With the Association Board Circle membership level, you get a seat in the U.S. Travel Association Board of Directors. On top of that, you also get the highest level of advocacy engagement. Needless to say, the benefits of the above-mentioned membership levels are included here as well.

Board Circle

At this level, you get premium access to every mentioned perk of the previous three membership levels plus you become eligible for membership of the Council.

Chairman’s Circle

It doesn’t get better than a Chairman’s Circle membership level. Hands-on interaction opportunities with top legislative officials and seats on CEO-level roundtables and the U.S. Travel Board of Directors are just a few of the many perks that you unlock with this membership level. 

Pricing

To become a member of the U.S. Travel Association you will pay $350 as first-time registration fees – a particular membership level’s cost will be an add-on. To give you an approximate number, if you are a small company signing up for a regular membership, it’d cost you about $920.

2. Independent Lodging Congress (ILC)

As the name suggests, the Independent Lodging Congress (ILC) looks to support hoteliers in the independent hospitality segment. You get to put your company’s Profile and Welcome section on ILC’s social media handles such as LinkedIn and Twitter. This will increase your hotel’s visibility where it actually matters and will put you on the map.

While we’re talking about LinkedIn, it should also be mentioned that you will have access to the members-only LinkedIn group of this association where you can share your thoughts, inspire changes, bring home innovations for your hotel/s, and lead the way with a fresher perspective.

And if you’re thinking that the Independent Lodging Congress is just for hoteliers, you can’t be further away from the truth. In fact, there are as many as 6 related segments of the hospitality industry that the ILC covers. This includes brokerage/management firms, financial services, architects/designers, marketing/PR, technology, and F&B.

Pricing

The ILC keeps it simple when it comes to pricing their membership plans. There is the option to pay separately for each ILC event. Alternatively, you can opt for the $2,975 annual plan that books you a seat at every ILC event of that year. The annual membership plan saves you as much as 30% when compared to paying for each event separately. You also miss out on a 10% discount on any sponsorship scope if you choose to pay for every ILC seminar individually.

3. Boutique Lifestyle Leaders Association (BLLA)

The Boutique Lifestyle Leaders Association, fondly known as BLLA, aims at subsiding the corporate way of handling hotels that have long been the industry norm. With creativity in its mind, BLLA brings independent boutique and lifestyle hoteliers, pioneers, and thinkers from beauty, health, and fashion to the same table.

If you are a supplier of boutique products or/and services or have an authentic boutique hotel, you are eligible to become a member of BLLA. Currently, there are over 10,000 member organizations of BLLA that together have 200+ hotels under their belt. You get to become relevant – increased brand awareness, option to secure valuable partnerships, access to industry reports and BLLA film archives, and many more.

Moreover, if you are a vendor/supplier, you have a chance at authentication that will increase your credibility. Get listed on the directory page of BLLA’s website and steal the show by spotlight posting on BLLA’s social media handles.

Pricing

The Hotel Membership plan costs $795 annually while the Vendor Membership plan is relatively pricey at $995 annually. Both these membership plans have an option to include a digital marketing package that is priced at $2,545 and $2,745 per year respectively for the Hotel and Vendor memberships.

4. Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA)

Established in 1989, AAHOA is the largest hospitality association in the world. It was founded to counter the discrimination against Asian American hoteliers and has seemingly grown into a hospitality association that owns nearly 50% of all American hotels.

The AAHOA has its foot planted in virtually every community. It is able to achieve such versatility through its 19,500+ members. The association is a front-runner when it comes to promoting a free-enterprise economy and does its part well by providing opportunities for professional development, networking, and community engagement.

Pricing

There is a $199 Annual Membership plan that gives you access to 200 showcase events per year. You can also avail of discounts and unlock exclusive deals from the 400+ vendor partners that AAHOA has. However, if you are willing and capable of spending more, you can opt for the $3,000 Lifetime Membership that brings with it a complimentary registration for the 2021 AAHOA convention.

5. American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA)

Spurred by the notion that hoteliers contribute massively to positive economic movement, AHLA has made it their mission to provide advocacy on critical issues that impact the hospitality industry, give individual hoteliers a say in important industry policies, networking opportunities, and access to industry insights.

Thought-provoking sessions on crisis management, industry changes, professional development, and the latest industry briefs and advisories offer loads of educational opportunities to small hotel managers on how they can expand and enhance both their business and customer experience.

Pricing

There are 8 membership categories. The Student membership level costs just $45 a year and provides great value for money – there are educational opportunities, the latest industry updates, and career enhancement tools. Next is the Academia membership that costs $250 for a 2 year period.

Both prices and perks keep on increasing with further plans – International, Branded Properties, Independent Properties, Management/Owners/Chains, Allied+, and Allied. The Allied membership plan is top-notch in terms of the features that it provides but comes at an annual price of $3,000.

Conclusion

While going on the hunt alone sounds exciting and adventurous, it is always a wise idea to take inspiration and learn from the experiences and expertise of those who’ve been in the business for years. The same is true for your hotel. Joining a hotel/hospitality association can help you better understand what the industry experts do (or don’t do) to achieve success.

Jeremy Wells

Partner at Longitude°

Jeremy is a Partner at Longitude°. He’s also the author of “Future Hospitality”, a book focused on how branding can create more impactful guest experiences. Additionally, he’s an honored member of the Boutique & Lifestyle Leaders Association (BLLA) Education Committee and has spoken at industry events and associations including AAHOA, Global Hospitality Summit, Hospitality Talks, and more.