Washington, D.C., December 14, 2016 — The American Hotel and Lodging Educational Foundation (AHLEF) today announced that the Opening Doors to Opportunity campaign has received more than $7.2 million via 108 pledges from industry executives and leading corporations. The Foundation’s first comprehensive capital initiative in more than 15 years, the effort will provide $4 million to increase the amount and number of academic scholarships that are given to hospitality management students; $2 million to increase professional development scholarships for current associates; and $2 million to tackle innovative research projects in support of the entire hotel and lodging industry. The Campaign Executive Committee, comprised of 14 industry executives and led by Kirk Kinsell, Ret. Loews Hotels & Resorts, anticipates raising the remaining funds by the end of the year. 

The campaign has celebrated leadership gifts from 12 corporations. Host Hotels & Resorts has led the way and set the example for generous gifts pledging $500,000 to the campaign. Similarly, corporations pledging $250,000 or more include the Ashford Group of Companies, Best Western Hotels & Resorts, FelCor Lodging Trust, Hilton, Hyatt, La Quinta Inns & Suites, LaSalle Hotel Properties, Loews Hotels & Resorts, The Venetian, USA Today, and Wyndham Worldwide.

“We are in the business of people and this campaign is investing vitally needed dollars into our industry’s future talent while also equipping us to invest in the career trajectories of our current employees,” said Ed Walter, President & CEO of Host Hotels & Resorts.

“In our business, there is no more important investment than in people, because they deliver the hospitality experience to millions of travelers,” said Mark Hoplamazian, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hyatt Hotels Corporation. “Through our work with AHLEF to cultivate and attract top care-oriented people, we are providing more opportunities to help the Hyatt family and our growing industry to be its best.”

Corporations making five-year pledges of $100,000 to $249,000 include Accor Hotels, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, Caesars Entertainment, Aimbridge Hospitality, Davidson Hotels & Resorts, HEI Hotels & Resorts, Hersha Hospitality Trust, Highgate, Omni Hotels & Resorts, PSAV, Sage Hospitality, STR, Summit Hotel Properties, Trump Hotel Collection, and Westmont Hospitality/Red Roof Inns.

“When asked to support the Opening Doors to Opportunity campaign we readily accepted the chance to participate,” said Walter Isenberg, President & CEO, Sage Hospitality. “The Foundation supports companies like ours with a pipeline of quality individuals to hire and resources for our employees to pursue professional development. Leadership development is one of Sage's core values and we felt it was important to lend our support and show our peers and customers that the Foundation not only supports our company, but our entire profession.”

Campaign gifts from individuals to the Opening Doors to Opportunity has made AHLEF history as more than $810,000 has been contributed. On behalf of the Robert A. Alter Family, Bob Alter of Seaview Investors committed the lead personal pledge of $250,000. Similarly, Minaz Abji, EVP Asset Management, Host Hotels & Resorts, John Belden, President & CEO of Davidson Hotels & Resorts, and Kirk Kinsell, Campaign Chair, pledged $100,000 in personal support. Campaign donors personally contributing $50,000 to $99,000 include Jim & Adele Abrahamson, Geoff & Leslie Ballotti, and Steve & Bonnie Holmes.

“The foundation has quietly, but powerfully, been serving as the philanthropic organization for our industry for over 60 years,” said John Belden. “Thinking about the future of our profession, the incredible possibilities and the sincere need for quality talent, I knew the Foundation was the right place for Davidson and for my family to meaningfully invest. This campaign is truly an industry-wide effort and we are pleased to join with so many respected individuals and corporations in supporting this campaign.”

An industry-wide, limited-time fundraising effort, Opening Doors to Opportunity is engaging Brands, Owners, Management Companies, Partner State Associations, Independent Properties, and Allied partners in support of the individuals and research that serve the hospitality industry. Donors to the capital campaign recognize the value of investing in scholarships and research, with 40 percent of campaign donors making their first gift to the Foundation and 70 percent, while previously supportive of other AHLEF initiatives, made their first pledge to a Foundation capital campaign.

To learn more about the campaign and see the donors who have pledged their support, visit: To support the future of the profession, and have your name added to the list of notable donors, contact Christianna Luy, Campaign Director, at 202-289-3135 or



Founded in 1953, the American Hotel and 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 and Lodging Association (AHLA) to educate the future hospitality workforce, research trends and opportunities that will impact the sector, and empower the industry to grow stronger and faster. For more information visit: