Co-founders of Long Live Lodging, an online multimedia news organization that covers the hospitality industry, gathered in March 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia, for a group shot a few months after agreeing to develop the new venture. They are, from left, Anand Patel, director of operations; Jon Albano, founder and co-host of Lodging Leaders podcast and director of production; Judy Maxwell, director of editorial and co-host of Lodging Leaders; and Neha Patel, director of marketing. The Patels also own and operate Myriann.com, which develops and manages Long Live Lodging’s website.
Jon Albano founded Lodging Leaders podcast more than five years ago to spotlight hospitality industry experts and influencers. Today, the podcast marks its 300th episode. It’s apropos that the news organization reaches the milestone at the dawn of 2021, given the historic newsworthiness of 2020.
Lodging Leaders podcast is part of Long Live Lodging, an online multimedia news organization that covers the hospitality industry. The company officially launched in September 2019. Its main focus in 2020 was how the coronavirus crisis impacted the hospitality industry. And it continues to cover how the course of the pandemic has altered hotel businesses. Access our complete coronavirus coverage here.
COVID-19 emerged as a health and economic doubleheader in March and the impact on lodging was swift and devastating.
Beginning, March 16, the team has produced nearly 40 reports that explored myriad trends and issues brought about by the pandemic and the ensuing downturn in business at most of the nation’s 57,000 hotels.
The World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a global health pandemic on March 11. On Friday, March 13, the Trump Administration declared the viral outbreak a national emergency. “That Monday is when we went to three episodes a week,” Albano said. The first report was Episode 254 “High Cancellations and Low Demand: Hotel pricing in a steep downturn.
“The one that really sticks with me aired just two weeks later, Episode 260.” said Judy Maxwell, co-founder, editorial director and podcast co-host.
Here’s an excerpt from Freitag’s recorded presentation via STR’s platform and featured in the episode titled Startling Statistics: Industry analysts stunned at depth of downturn.
Freitag: “So the week ending March 21st, RevPAR declined 69.5 percent. It’s the steepest weekly RevPAR decline we have ever recorded ever in our 30-year history.”
He went on to say analysts at STR expected business performance to get worse. “This has been the third week of consecutive, double-digit RevPAR decline, but the data accelerated and got worse over time. We have never reported 15 percent occupancy for the week. We fully expect the data next week to be actually worse than the minus 70 percent RevPAR decline that we reported today.”
Here is what he said:
“As an economist, we look to the past to inform the future. This event, this pandemic, really breaks all our models, and the expectation for the year ahead is significantly worse than both 9-11 and the great financial crisis combined in terms of how it’s going to hit the hospitality sector both in the U.S. and around the world.”
As hotels, bars and restaurants and the travel industry as a whole watched business disappear and millions of people were laid off, the pandemic was the backdrop to the May 25th death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by police in Minneapolis.
“You think something like that, ‘What does that have to do with the hospitality industry?” Maxwell said. “Well, of course it rattled America from coast to coast. It brought a reckoning of systemic racism and it shocked the whole country as well as the hospitality industry out of this complacency that we all had. We thought we were dealing with racism. From my point of view, a white middle-aged woman, ‘Oh, I thought we’re getting better at this.’ And this showed me personally that we are so not getting better at it. We weren’t making any progress whatsoever.
“The one thing that really hit me was at the hotel companies and anybody associated with hotels as far as business, whether it was vendors or suppliers or whatever, they were scrambling with messaging that supported their ongoing as well as their renewed efforts to make diversity inclusion and equality part of their best practices.
“But so many folks in the industry said they were just platitudes and they’re not enough, especially when you look at the company’s track records.”
A little more than a month later, a report by Castell Project revealed how hotel companies lack progress in promoting Black men and women to leadership roles.
MEASURED RESPONSE: Shortly after the police killing of George Floyd on May 25, Peggy Berg of Castell Project published a report, “Black Representation in Hospitality Industry Leadership 2020” that showed how hospitality companies’ efforts at diversity and inclusion are failing to move the needle in promoting Black men and women to leadership roles. The report can be found along with other Castell Project research on women in hospitality leadership on this link.
Albano narrates this episode. In introducing Berg’s study, titled Black Representation in Hospitality Industry Leadership 2020, he says this:
“Of 630 hotel companies’ websites, 84 percent or 529 companies have no Blacks in executive positions; 102 company websites show Black employees as directors and above; and Black executives represent just 1.5 percent of hospitality industry executives at the director level or above. That is 12.5 times below Blacks’ proportionate share of hospitality industry employment.
“Berg writes these statistics could ‘only occur in an industry that is structurally biased against them.’ We ask Berg to elaborate what she means by that statement.”
Peggy Berg: “I think all of us in the industry walk through our properties and go to our meetings and know that there’s an issue here, that we’re not permitting black people to move up in our industry. But until you actually count it, you don’t know, you don’t really know.
“And I was honestly shocked when I saw these numbers. Because it’s one of those things that you know in the back of your mind, but when you actually see the numbers, it’s suddenly real. And the numbers are dramatic enough that it can’t be just them, and it can’t be just the school system. It has to be us, too.”
The report can be found along with other Castell Project research on women in hospitality leadership via this link.
This episode featuring Berg and the report garnered more downloads than usual. But the podcast report that resulted in the second-highest number of downloads in 2020 is Episode 279, Inclusion is a Unicorn Part 2: ‘We are actually doing badly.’
BIG RESPONSE: Next Generation in Lodging’s panel discussion Episode 279, Inclusion is a Unicorn Part 2: ‘We are actually doing badly,” generated Lodging Leaders podcast’s second-highest number of downloads in 2020.
This podcast was organized by Next Generation in Lodging, a newly formed group of mid-career hospitality professionals. Co-founders of NGIL, participated in a Lodging Leaders’ podcast that launched on June 24: Episode 275, ‘Inclusion is a Myth’: Next Generation in Lodging challenges industry’s status quo on race and diversity.
The podcast reported on NGIL’s live Zoom webcast about diversity and inclusion being hacked on June 12 by suspected white supremacists. It was the second webcast NGIL held to address diversity, inclusion and equality in the hospitality industry. Its first program took place on June 5. You can view it here.
Five weeks after the disrupted program, NGIL repeated the webcast on Long Live Lodging’s platform.
“They were really quite dismayed and very fearful to try and do it again,” Maxwell said about the Zoom-bombing of the webcast. “So we reached out to them and said, ‘Hey, how would you guys like to come on to our platform and have this panel discussion again, but not live recorded so it’s more secure, and then we’ll air it?’ And so that’s what they did. Everybody came back on and started all over again with the conversation and a little bit more aware of the state of things.”
Ashli Johnson, who was then assistant dean at University of Houston’s Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel & Restaurant Management in San Antonio, Texas, is the panel moderator.
Here is what she had to say about the lack of progress in inclusion in the hospitality industry: “I think at the end of the day, change is much easier to talk about than actually implement. And this concept of inclusion being a unicorn, I really think speaks to this fairy tale, utopian environment that we think we’re living and working in and playing in. But more times than not for lots of marginalized groups of individuals, that’s just not our reality. In hospitality, we’ve been talking about inclusion for a long time, right? And somehow we’re still not there.”
Franchising at the Fore
Although the coronavirus crisis and racism were among the topics that dominated national news streams, including ours, Lodging Leaders podcast made its own history with a report about fair franchising.
Lodging Leaders’ most-downloaded program in 2020 is Episode 265, “Franchising in Deconstruction: COVID-19 crisis amplifies problems in brand licensing.” The report launched on April 15 covered the impact of the coronavirus crisis on the franchiser-franchisee relationship. The episode’s downloads exceeded Lodging Leader’s average by 160 percent and clearly demonstrated the company’s mission to produce programs that inspire success through timely, responsible, fair and balanced reporting. The associated multimedia report can be found here.
FAIR FRANCHISING: Long Live Lodging and Lodging Leaders podcast reported on the state of franchising in the beginning of 2020 and in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Launched on April 15, Episode 265, “Franchising in Deconstruction: COVID-19 crisis amplifies problems in brand licensing,” resulted in an all-time high in the number of downloads for Lodging Leaders.
“If you’re a franchiser and you’re hearing this for the first time, if you’re planning your recovery this year and the years ahead, you should have listened or you should listen to this episode,” Maxwell said. “Industry professionals talk a lot about a good customer experience, and they usually are talking about the hotel guests. But we all know that the franchiser’s customer is the franchisee. And we do know based on our reporting that many of these customers are incredibly dissatisfied.”
Among the several interview subjects in the report is Mike Leven, co-founder of AAHOA, a former hotel franchiser and an industry icon.
Here’s a bit of what he had to say about the current state of hotel franchising, in particular new-brand proliferation that encroaches on established hotels’ areas of protection, a practice Leven expects will create problems for both hotel franchising companies and owners as the industry tries to recover from the economic crisis.
“Every time I read a trade publication, there’s more brands out and the brands have allowed buildings next door …. I think there’s going to be a revolution here …. I think it’s going to come to that. I think you’re going to see lawsuits. The brands are going to have to make some concessions. You just can’t keep throwing hotels up and say, ‘Well, it’s a different market when, in fact, we live in a world in hospitality now where rate transparency is obvious to everybody all the time …. So it’s a whole different world. And I think the owners are going to get dramatically hurt. The brands are going to get hurt because the occupancy is not going to be there. And then you’ve got a confluence of product improvement plans that are going to have to be delayed in order to help these people. I think these things are egregious, very egregious.”
This report launched in July, but Lodging Leaders had originally planned, pre-pandemic, to produce a series of reports about the state of fair franchising that would air during March. Its kick-off report focused on Fair Franchising Initiative, a newly formed organization that held its launch conference on March 5 in New Jersey. Maxwell covered the event and it was the topic of Episode 253, which launched on March 11.
Of course that was the day WHO declared the global pandemic and Long Live Lodging shifted its news-coverage strategy to focus on the health crisis and subsequent impact on the hospitality industry.
Lodging Leaders this year plans to continue to cover issues related to franchising.
UNDER DEVELOPMENT: Next Generation in Lodging is expected to join Long Live Lodging’s multimedia platform in 2021 with a podcast of its own. Co-founders of the organization are Davonne Reaves of The Vonne Group, a hotel consulting company in Atlanta; Omari Head, a hotel broker and director at Paramount Lodging Advisors in Washington, D.C.; and Chris Henry, co-founder and CEO of Majestic Hospitality Group in Los Angeles. They’ll bring their perspectives as millennials facing the biggest crisis of their careers.
Looking ahead, Long Live Lodging plans to expand its offerings by adding a new podcast by Next Generation in Lodging.
Co-founders of the organization are Davonne Reaves of The Vonne Group, a hotel consulting company in Atlanta; Omari Head, a hotel broker and director at Paramount Lodging Advisors in Washington, D.C.; and Chris Henry, co-founder and CEO of Majestic Hospitality Group in Los Angeles. They’ll bring their perspectives as millennials facing the biggest crisis of their careers.
“Some reports have called millennials the most unlucky demographic and members of the lost generation because this age group has experienced two major economic crisis, the Great Recession of 2008 and now the COVID-19 pandemic,” Maxwell said.
“Co-founders of Next Generation in Lodging are in the middle of their hospitality careers. These are the 30 somethings.
“They’ve tackled some controversial topics already with us, and we want to continue to dig deep into the trends and issues impacting this particular hospitality professional.”
LODGINGSTREAM: A screenshot of “The Big Comeback,” one of 12 panels in Long Live Lodging’s April 30 digital conference called LodgingStream: A Brave New World. It’s believed to be the hotel industry’s first all-digital conference. The live event featured 60 panelists. The panelists pictured are from top left, Chris Henry of Majestic Hospitality; panel moderator Judy King of Quality Management Services; Chad Sorensen of CHMWarnick; Kate Burda of Kate Burda & Co.; Kale Patel of Crestpoint Cos.; Emmy Hise of STR; and Brian Waldman of Peachtree Hotel Group.
Other noteworthy events in 2020 for Long Live Lodging and Lodging Leaders podcast include the April 30 digital conference called LodgingStream: A Brave New World. It’s believed to be the hotel industry’s first all-digital conference. The four-hour event featured 12 sessions and 60 panelists.
It also included a segment called “What’s Your Story?” in which hospitality folks shared their experiences of working in the trenches during the early days of the pandemic. Seven pre-recorded stories were aired at the beginning of the live conference and received high praise from virtual attendees. Their stories can be found on Long Live Lodging’s Humans of Lodging page.
STORY TIME: LodgingStream digital conference featured a pre-recorded sessions called What’s Your Story? in which hospitality folks shared their experiences of working in the trenches during the early days of the pandemic. Seven pre-recorded stories were aired at the beginning of the live conference and received high praise from virtual attendees. Their stories can be found on Long Live Lodging’s Humans of Lodging page.
Long Live Lodging / Lodging Leaders podcast in 2020 garnered international recognition when Judy Maxwell, co-founder, principal and editorial director of Long Live Lodging, was recognized by Stevie Awards for Women in Business for contributing to the growth of the news organization since its official launch in September 2019.
As a result, Long Live Lodging won a Bronze Stevie® Award in the Media Hero of the Year for our COVID-29 coverage and Lodging Leaders won a Bronze Stevie® Award for Podcast of the Year in the 17th annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business. Our organization placed third in both categories but it was the only U.S. company to win the awards.
In closing, Long Live Lodging / Lodging Leaders podcast has created its 2021 Media Kit, where people can learn more about us, our mission and the emerging trend of multimedia news, including podcasts.
Also available in the kit is information on how to become a sponsor. Long Live Lodging has had a few paid sponsorships since it officially launched in fall 2019, but during the pandemic our team decided to cease seeking sponsors. This year, it’s back on and we’re excited to help hospitality businesses share their messaging with our followers.
If you have a story you’d like to tell for What’s Your Story? or if there’s an industry trend or issue you feel we need to know about, contact us here. We really do want to hear from you. We make it a priority to respond to folks who reach out to us.
Thank you to all our followers and previous sponsors for supporting our startup. We are excited for what lies ahead.
Until next time, Long Live Lodging.
Resources and Links
Senior Vice President, Lodging Insights
Vice President of Research
Chief Revenue Officer
Hotel EffectivenessLinkedIn Profile
Southwest Hospitality Management, LLCLinkedIn Profile
Principal and Managing Director
NewGen Worldwide, LLCLinkedIn Profile
Managing Partner and CEO
NewGen Worldwide, LLCLinkedIn Profile
Chief Experience Officer
Urbane Hospitality GroupLinkedIn Profile
Castell Project, Inc.LinkedIn Profile
Fair Franchising InitiativeLinkedIn Profile
Former hotel franchiser