High-level Donors Include: The Robert A. Alter Family, Host Hotels & Resorts, Best Western Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Worldwide, the Ashford Group of Companies, FelCor Lodging Trust, LaSalle Hotel Properties, La Quinta Inns & Suites, Loews Hotels & Resorts,

September 27, 2016, Washington, D.C. — The American Hotel and Lodging Educational Foundation (AH&LEF) has publicly announced a capital initiative that will provide $8 million in funds for academic and professional development scholarships and critical industry research. As of September 26 the campaign, Opening Doors to Opportunity has already received more than $6 million via 84 pledges from industry executives and leading corporations. 

The first capital campaign in more than 15 years, AH&LEF has already achieved 76 percent of its $8 million goal. The Campaign Executive Committee, comprised of 14 industry executives and led by Kirk Kinsell, President & CEO of Loews Hotels & Resorts, anticipates raising the remaining funds by December 31. 

 Campaign PledgesTo date, Host Hotels & Resorts is the campaign’s lead donor generously pledging $500,000 over five years. Similarly, personal and corporate donors pledging a minimum of $250,000 include: The Robert A. Alter Family, Best Western Hotels & Resorts, Hilton, the Ashford Group of Companies, FelCor Lodging Trust, LaSalle Hotel Properties, La Quinta Inns & Suites, Loews Hotels & Resorts, USA Today, and Wyndham Worldwide.  

Additionally, many industry executives have been leaders in driving the campaign through large personal donations. They include American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) board member, Robert A. Alter, President of Seaview Investors, LLC; AH&LEF Chairman, Minaz Abji, EVP Asset Management at Host Hotels & Resorts; and AH&LEF Trustee, Kirk Kinsell, President & CEO of Loews Hotels & Resorts. The Alter family committed $250,000 and Kinsell and Abji each pledged $100,000. 

“I benefited enormously from a scholarship when I was a student, so I feel called to support education,” said Abji. “When one person gets an education, amazing changes happen that transform whole families. By making education – and a career in the best industry in the world – possible for so many students, many of them the first in their families to attend college. The Foundation does a great and important job.” 

“Talent has to be a number one priority for all of us in the hotel industry, and supporting research and exceptional students as future leaders is our shared responsibility,” said Kinsell. “I consider it a privilege to join many of our industry’s top professionals in asking our peers to support this industry-wide, limited-time effort.” 

Opening Doors to Opportunity will provide $4 million in academic scholarships for hospitality management students; $2 million in professional and workforce development scholarships for more than 4,000 current associates seeking to obtain a professional certification; and $2 million to fund several dozen new studies that will support companies and state associations across the profession.

“At the core of our industry is the hardworking women and men of hospitality. Ensuring that we provide the means to attract and develop the future talent pipeline as well as the growth and advancement of our current team members is crucial to our collective success,” said Katherine Lugar, President & CEO of AH&LA. “This is an exceptional time to be in hospitality and I couldn't be more proud of all who have stepped up to support the Foundation capital campaign to nurture and advance the next generation of hospitality leaders.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the leisure and hospitality industry will increase employment by nearly 1.3 million jobs in the next 10 years. However, since 1985, the average tuition and fees at traditional public four-year institutions rose by 231%. With its capital campaign, AH&LEF will increase the number of hospitality management students who receive support, increase the number of current industry professionals pursuing professional certifications, and increase the number of research studies that track the pulse of the industry and help executives mitigate risks. 

Opening Doors to Opportunity is AH&LEF’s fourth capital campaign effort. It follows campaigns in 2001, 1996 and 1985. Already, the Opening Doors to Opportunity has made AH&LEF history as more than $681,000 has been contributed by individuals. What’s more, 42 percent of campaign donors made their first gift to the Foundation and 66 percent, while previously supportive of other AH&LEF initiatives, made their first pledge to a Foundation capital campaign.


Founded in 1953, the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation has spent 63 years identifying, cultivating, and supporting the human talent, research, and initiatives most vital to the progress and prosperity of the lodging industry. The Foundation works in tandem with the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) to educate the future hospitality workforce, research trends and opportunities that will impact the sector, and empower the industry to grow stronger and faster.