For more than four decades, Javier Cano has been taking care of guests and his teams for Marriott, from LA to Mexico, Hawaii and back to LA, where he oversees three different hospitality operations that together occupy a 54-story skyscraper downtown.
But he also spends part of his time taking care of his fellow hoteliers. As the chair of CHLA’s Government + Legal Relations Committee, Cano can often be found in Sacramento helping to explain the organization’s stance on key issues to lawmakers and other officials. It’s a task he considers vital for the health of hospitality across California.
“The legislative and regulatory landscape is a challenging one for the hotel industry,” he said. “Given this opportunity, I want to do anything I can to assist CHLA in this space and educate people about what will help our industry.”
Cano sees his role as primarily educational, helping decision makers in the Capitol and state agencies understand how their actions can help or hinder an industry that is a vital part of the economy in a state that is the nation’s top tourist destination.
Many elected officials and others in government don’t always connect the dots between the hospitality industry and the overall economic health of a community, Cano notes. Hotels do more than provide jobs and local taxes—they also support an extensive local ecosystem that benefits small businesses like florists, bakers, and other suppliers in the community.
“We not only employ a lot of people, but there are so many others who depend on our success,” he said.
One of the main issues for CHLA this year is legislation intended to clamp down on abusive serial lawsuits brought against properties under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These suits seek damages from properties for alleged violations of the ADA, but are almost always filed by a handful of law firms on behalf of an individual who has never stayed or attempted to stay at the properties. The real intent of the suits is to have a property agree to settle rather than absorb the cost of taking the case to trial—even though the plaintiff never suffered any actual harm and the property is likely to win the case.
Cano’s interest in public policy grew from his long career managing properties for Marriott. He started with the company when it had just opened its 63rd hotel and has stayed with Marriott for 44 years since. Born in East LA, he is now on his fourth tour in Los Angeles as a hotelier, managing the JW Marriott Los Angeles LA LIVE; The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles; and The Ritz-Carlton Residences LA LIVE on Olympic Boulevard in the heart of downtown LA.
“Really, a hotel GM is responsible for both a lot of people who work in our buildings as well as for the community,” he said. “So, part of the job is to learn who the elected officials are, reach out and speak to them, and put forward your perspective.”
Recalling what former U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill once said—that “all politics are local”—Cano said that engaging local officials is something that any GM should consider.
“I believe that elected officials are always willing to speak with you, and so people in our industry should take advantage of that,” he said. “Talk to them, build that relationship. It’s important that they hear about the things that are working—and the things that aren’t.”