Blazing a new trail for the hospitality industry

The newly-formed Washington Hospitality Association will help support industry growth in the region

Anthony Anton

Hospitality is a living, vital, needed part of our cultural fabric more than ever and it now has an association to support it.

After announcing a joint operating agreement one year ago, the Washington Restaurant Association and Washington Lodging Association merged to become the Washington Hospitality Association.

The Washington Restaurant Association was formed in 1929 and the Washington Lodging Association was formed in 1920. Both served their respective members through training programs, legislative advocacy, a workplace safety reimbursement program and industry news.

The decision to ultimately merge began as a conversation about how our two associations could work together. As we continued to talk, we realized that we are entering a whole new era of business. Our industry needed to come together. We needed to be stronger, provide more information, create better programs and find solutions for the increasingly challenging regulatory environment.

Today, our logos and brands have merged, but our goals remain the same.

We are a supportive and responsive member resource and a powerful, unified and credible advocate for the hospitality industry. We are connected to our communities and welcoming to every size, group, nationality and creed. We aim to embody hospitality. Hospitality is not only what we do, it is who we are.

Now that the new association has formed, it has work to do such as helping the restaurant industry fill an estimated shortage of 9,000 line cooks statewide, supporting businesses with solutions for the increasing cost of labor, protecting hotels’ reputations and defending them from forced unionization, ensuring that our RETRO program continues to be a proactive force for workplace safety and supporting growth of the industry through training and education offered by our Education Foundation.

We have already hit the ground running with providing solutions.

Earlier this month we hosted a hiring event, in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Services in King County. In just six hours, more than 65 deserving individuals were given new jobs. During the event, participants could earn a food handlers permit, apply for Orca Lift cards and receive childcare assistance if needed. This is a prime example of how the hospitality industry is a pipeline for employment from first job to lifelong career.

We are the largest private employer in the state and employ more than 269,000 people. We hope to hold more of these events in areas across the state and continue to move roadblocks for individuals who want jobs.

It is active steps like this hiring event that will help fill our line cook shortage and provide a talent pool of applicants for employers.

With this merger we also get to deepen our connections to our communities. We have added resources that let us reach people on the local level. More than ever, the hospitality industry is a leader in grassroots movements of every kind. We are blazing a new trail as to how business associations can be a welcoming place for every size, group, nationality and creed.

Our goal and dedication even be seen in our new logo. Its multiple colors reflect the diversity of our membership. We have members from the golden side of our state in Eastern Washington, the blue shores of our coastal communities and the modern gray of downtown Seattle. We have members that range from a small family-owned pizza place to a world-renown resort.

And not least, our name. We are now the Washington Hospitality Association. No longer separated into hotels and restaurants, but one hospitality industry.

Hospitality is defined as “a friendly and generous reception.” To us, that means a welcome, an open door to a place where customers, members and citizens are appreciated and accepted. Making people feel welcome is the cornerstone of our industry.

Welcome to hospitality.

Anthony Anton is the president and CEO of the newly-formed Washington Hospitality Association.

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