If you were to guess which city in the U.S. has the most tourists every year, how many of you would guess Orlando? It’s not hard to understand why – it’s a terrific city, lots of amazing attractions and of course, plenty of hotels to choose from. With 70 million – yes, that’s million – visitors every year, you can imagine how hard it is to fill the more than 7,600 open jobs this year alone. That’s why this past March, AHLEF announced a $75,000 grant through our Empowering Youth Program to help Orlando community-based organizations – Second Harvest and After-School All-Stars – recruit and train individuals to join our growing industry.

With the City of Orlando, Commissioners Ings and Stuart, local hoteliers, and our team led by Shelly Weir, in attendance we were honored to see those funds come to fruition and culminate in a graduation ceremony, yesterday when more than 20 talented students received their certificates from the After-School All-Stars’ hospitality job training program.

We were so grateful to David Bartek, VP of Operations, from Loews in Orlando who was on hand to offer his advice to the graduates: “Grow where you are planted” – another reminder that the hotel industry offers an upward path to a life-long career. He noted that the hotel industry offers incredible opportunities, but it requires working hard at whatever stage you find yourself.

Immediately following the ceremony, students had the opportunity to connect and interview with local hoteliers representing over 20 properties across Orlando. We look forward to watching these future leaders as they grow their careers with us. Congratulations graduates!