In 1893, Grover Cleveland was sworn in for a second term as President. California’s 1.2 million residents made it the 22nd state by population, just behind Mississippi. Down in Los Angeles, though, things were booming: the population would triple during the decade to more than 50,000. That steady influx of new people and new business created an ever-growing need for new hotels.
It was in the midst of that boom 130 years ago that the California Hotel and Lodging Association was born, started by a group of just three dozen men and women who created a social organization for hotel owners and operators in Los Angeles. The Southern California Hotel Association, as it was then known, would create the foundation for the organization today that represents the interests and goals of hotel and lodging owners and operators across California.
The Southern California Hotel Association grew and by 1910 had become part of the first national hotel industry group, the American Hotel Association. A year later, the California State Hotel & Motel Association was created, which included a group of hoteliers in Northern California. When they became frustrated with a lack of attention to California’s needs by the national association, the group took action itself, petitioning President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 to establish a government department dedicated to the promotion of travel.
The result of that effort, the “See America First” publicity campaign, remains one of the most memorable advertising campaigns of the 20th Century, creating iconic images of the nation’s scenic wonders. It also marked the beginnings of the involvement of California’s hotel industry in advocating for policies that would support the lodging industry and help make tourism a vital part of the California economy.
By 1970, as issues affecting the industry had become an increasing focus in Sacramento, it became apparent that a single statewide organization would best serve the needs of owners and operators. The two major associations decide to join forces to become the California Hotel & Motel Association, a 445-property member group that was the direct forerunner of CHLA.
Over the 53 years since, CHLA has grown steadily and become a highly visible and effective advocate for the changing needs of the state’s hospitality industry as well as serving as a resource for charitable and environmental campaigns on behalf of the entire industry.
The timeline with this story shows some of the more notable events in CHLA history, including many that have occurred since we marked our 125th anniversary in 2018, including our response to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the health and safety of our employees and guests, as well as support the ongoing recovery of the tourism industry in California.
As we look to our next decade, we see a great future for the industry along with challenges on many fronts: economic, labor and regulatory. CHLA will continue to be there as a staunch advocate for our members, just as we have since that first meeting of 36 in Los Angeles more than a century ago.