125 Years of the California Hotel & Lodging Association

    The California Hotel & Lodging Association is proud to be celebrating 125 years of protecting the rights and interests of owners and operators across our state.

    Since our organization was formed, we have grown from a small social group of only 36 men and women to the most influential state lodging associations in the country. We currently represent more than 1,800 members, which comprise approximately 175,000 guest rooms across California. This great accomplishment could not have happened without the ongoing hard work and dedication of each and every one of our members.

    As we mark this important milestone in our organization, we wanted to take the time to look back at how it all began, how we’ve grown and where we’re headed.

    Back in 1893, the organization known then as Southern California Hotel Association, began as a fraternal group for owners and operators to share ideas and socialize. Although it has transformed and grown exponentially since that time, this group laid the basic framework for representing the interests and goals of California’s lodging industry.

    In 1910, the American Hotel Association was founded to serve the needs of the lodging industry at the national level. The Southern California Hotel Association joined the national association that same year. The following year, as our industry grew, another organization was formed — the California State Hotel & Motel Association, which included the Northern California Hotel Association.

    Over the next decade, the industry continued its exponential growth. Many hotel members became frustrated, however, that the National Hotel Association was not putting enough effort into encouraging people locally and abroad to explore our great state and boost tourism across the country.

    So, in October 1919, the Northern California Hotel Association took matters into their own hands and passed a first-of-its-kind resolution petitioning President Woodrow Wilson and Congress to establish a department to educate and encourage people to travel in America through a publicity and advertising campaign seen across the country and around the world. This led to the now-famous “See America First” advertising campaign highlighting the scenic wonders, historical sites, parks, forests, National monuments and more across the country.

    The “See America First” campaign was just one of the many ways the original California hotel associations moved the industry forward during the early years of tourism and industrial growth and laid the groundwork that led us to where we are today.

    For many years, California innkeepers were represented by two separate trade groups – north and south — but with an increase in legislative activity affecting the lodging industry, member needs and the continued development of the industry, it became apparent that a one unified association could best serve the goals of the industry in California.  On May 1, 1970, the Southern California Hotel Association and the California State Hotel & Motel Association joined forces to create the California Hotel & Motel Association, with a 445 property members.

    Over the years, with increasing governmental oversight of the hotel and lodging industry, along with other forces influencing the direction of the industry, the focus of the Association shifted toward that of today’s trade association by instituting governmental advocacy, professional education and industry communication programs on behalf of its membership.

    In 1995, the California Hotel & Motel Association helped pass the California Tourism Marketing Act, which was enacted to increase California’s share of the national travel and tourism market. The legislation enabled the state’s tourism industry to assess itself, authorizing the establishment of a non-profit, public benefit corporation – Visit California – to oversee the promotion of California as a premier travel destination.

    In 2001, the industry saw yet another name change at the state and national levels to the California Hotel & Lodging Association in conjunction with the American Hotel & Lodging Association, as they are both known today.

    In 2007, CHLA and the California Association of Bed & Breakfast Inns announced a merger to provide their respective members with greater access to legislative, marketing, educational and professional development benefits specific to the lodging industry. This newly formed relationship was created to strengthen the voice of California’s lodging industry across all market sectors, while providing property owners with the tools to operate a successful lodging business in California.

    Today, we continue to aggressively represent all facets of the lodging industry. From ensuring hotels can remain competitive and fiscally viable in the marketplace to focusing on ways to guarantee guest and employee safety in emergencies to going above and beyond to create training programs on the relevant issues of today, CHLA is dedicated to advocating for members every step of the way.

    In 2004, the widely successful “We Welcome Service Animals” campaign was created by the California Hotel & Lodging Association Educational Foundation to teach people in the hospitality industry and law enforcement how to improve service to disabled guests who depend on service animals for assistance. The program paved the way for others in the industry and won a prestigious Associations Advance America Award from the American Society of Association Executives.

    In recent years, we have focused on opposing proposed local transit occupancy taxes across the state, which can affect the flow of tourism, as well as short-term rentals that can put hotels at a competitive disadvantage against companies like Airbnb.

    In 2018, we advocated for SB 970, which requires all California hotels and motels to provide at least 20 minutes of classroom or other effective interactive training and education regarding human trafficking awareness to each employee who is likely to interact or come into contact with victims of human trafficking. As an industry, we recognize that hotels can play an important role in fighting human trafficking and, with greater insight and understanding of how human traffickers operate, hotel employees will be better prepared to recognize suspicious behavior and report trafficking incidents.

    With a growing number of legislative wins under our belt, we look forward to continuing to advocate for what’s most important to our members and ensure the industry continues to thrive for centuries to come.

    And our work has not gone unnoticed. Over the last 11 years CHLA has won seven ISHAE awards of Excellence – two for communications, three for Events & Fundraising, one in PR and one in Member Programs.  CHLA also has won four AHLA Chairman’s cups, which are given annually to AHLA partner state associations making the most significant contributions to their state hospitality membership development and retention programs. The awards are given to states that have the greatest increase of rooms, percentage of rooms, and market penetration.

    We have continued to help grow the industry by encouraging and helping the future generations of owners and operators. The CHLA Education Foundation, has awarded 256 scholarships to hospitality students since 1996, for a total of $350,000.

    By building on the goals and objectives planted in 1893 and cultivated since its inception, CHLA has fulfilled its mission to protect the rights and interests of the California lodging industry for the past 125 years and remains as strong as ever. Today, CHLA is in an impressive financial position – we have reached assets in excess of $2 million that include a reserve of just over $1 million and are continuing to grow.

    Since joining CHLA in 2002, I have had the unique opportunity to meet many of the people who have helped build this organization’s great history and success, and each story is an inspiration. It is people like these who remind me why we do what we do to make sure our voices are heard.

    It has been and continues to be an honor to serve, to make some small contribution and to join you all on this amazing journey and I look forward to seeing where the journey takes us during the next 125 years.