AHLA’s Dreams Happen Here campaign promotes hospitality as a career choice.
One of the tired stereotypes about F&B jobs such as cooking, bartending, and serving is that they’re just a way station to collect a paycheck until that employee finishes school or “makes it” in a different career.
It’s one of the perceptions the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) is trying to change with its “Dreams Happen Here” campaign, launched earlier this year. AHLA is highlighting hospitality as a rewarding, long-term career choice, as well as the enormous impact the hospitality industry has on the economy (see sidebar).
“Whether starting as dishwashers, bussers, servers, or bartenders, many in our industry begin their careers in F&B and work their way up the ladder, either staying in F&B operations or moving to other areas in the industry. Providing pathways to lifelong careers is what makes this industry so unique and strong,” says Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of AHLA.
One person who chose that pathway more than 35 years ago is Vivian Cammack, GM of Four Points by Sheraton Bangor Airport in Maine, which is owned and managed by New Castle Hotels & Resorts. Cammack began her career as a bartender in 1980 at the Bangor Hilton when it was managed by New Castle. The hotel changed to Four Points in 1996, and New Castle bought it in 2003.
“I was an art major at the University of Maine, but I fell in love with bartending and working at the hotel,” Cammack recalls. “I later became the lounge manager, then the F&B director, and I worked in HR and sales too. After that, I was transferred in 1994 to the Lucerne Inn (Maine) to be the GM, and in 1997 I transferred back here to Four Points Bangor Airport as GM, and I’ve been here happily since.”
Another serendipitous success story is Joe Massaro, GM at Hilton Harrisburg in Pennsylvania. He started as a bartender at a hotel in Scranton, Pennsylvania, while attending college to become an architectural engineer, but then the F&B director at the property “asked if I would be interested in being the beverage manager,” Massaro says. “I told him I had no experience, but he said, ‘I’ll teach you everything you need to know to do a great job, and you can always go back behind the bar if it’s not working out,’” Massaro says.
It did work out for Massaro, whose path continued with restaurant management positions at different hotels, followed by stints as F&B director, director of catering, director of sales and marketing, and eventually, GM at his current property.
“My first F&B director that gave me an opportunity to advance also became my career mentor, and he used to tell me an effective GM at a large property should have the experience of at least two of the three main disciplines in a hotel: F&B, sales and marketing, and rooms,” Massaro explains. “I was fortunate enough to have worked in all three prior to becoming a GM, so it gave me a total perspective on the inner workings of those departments and how they can best serve the guest, and each other.”
Both Cammack and Massaro emphasize how important mentorship has been to their own careers, and they pass on that guidance to their own young staff advancing in the hospitality industry.
AHLA kicked off Dreams Happen Here in February with a food truck serving cookies, ice cream, and coffee to Congressional staffers on Capitol Hill and will continue the advocacy campaign in other major cities through the rest of the year.
“The American Dream is thriving in the hotel sector,” Lugar says. “Our industry offers unrivaled upward mobility for its employees. At each hotel across the country, there are countless stories of individuals who start in entry-level jobs and quickly move up the ranks at some of the largest hotel companies in the world.”
By the Numbers
A closer look at the hospitality industry’s impact on the U.S. economy.
According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, their Dreams Happen Here campaign (see main story) is “grounded in new industry data from Oxford Economics underscoring the strength of our industry and the opportunities for our employees. The goal of the campaign is simple: To share the industry’s story of jobs, opportunity, and strong economic contributions in every community across the country. This is the most thorough economic impact analysis of the industry to date.”
Some key data from the Oxford Economics research includes:
• More than one billion guests stay in U.S. hotels every year.
• Hotels support $1.1 trillion in U.S. sales, including hotel revenue, guest spending, and taxes.
• Hotels generate $170 billion in local, state, and federal taxes.
• Hotels contribute nearly $600 billion to the U.S. GDP.
• Hotels generate 7.8 million jobs with $355 billion of labor income.
• Guests spend nearly $500 billion at hotels and local businesses, with $56 billion spent on F&B.
• The U.S. hotel industry consists of approximately 54,200 properties, with more than 4.6 million guestrooms.—MC