Confronting COVID-19 Q&A Series: Aimbridge Hospitality CEO Dave Johnson

Dallas-based Aimbridge Hospitality is one of the world’s leading hospitality management companies. Despite the pandemic’s severe economic impacts on the tourism industry, Aimbridge created Aimbridge Aid, a nonprofit fund to support its employees and the communities it serves. Aimbridge CEO Dave Johnson discusses the hotelier’s $1 million relief fund.

This Q&A is a part of an ongoing series of DRC interviews with representatives from our member organizations about how they are facing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: Why and how was Aimbridge Aid was established?

Dave Johnson, CEO

A: When we first realized the pandemic was going to severely impact our associates, individuals from every level within the company came forward expressing a desire to help. We wanted to establish a vehicle for providing support that would be sustainable beyond the pandemic to help our associates and the communities we serve, and something where those both inside and outside of Aimbridge could contribute.

Getting a charitable foundation off the ground is not an easy task, but a team of passionate individuals from HR, legal, treasury, and other departments came together quickly to make it happen. With executive sponsorship and some outside advice, we were able to get it off the ground successfully. Through Aimbridge Aid, we have been able to make a real difference for hundreds of our associates and their families.

Q: Many Aimbridge-managed hotel properties have remained opened during the pandemic. How is Aimbridge working to keep guests and employees safe?

A: Early on, our corporate operations team, with regular feedback from our general managers, developed proper cleaning, sanitizing, and training protocols based on CDC guidelines along with EcoLab. This evolved into our formalized AIMClean certificate training program, and we now have more than 10,000 hotel associates and leaders certified, with many more that have completed the training. As our hotel associates return to work, they are coming back to a new normal and operating environment. Our training provides teams with the tools, know-how, and resources to operate safely and keep our guests safe. Our guidance also follows each of the brand’s protocols, along with AHLA’s Safe Stay program, so we are aligned with the industry, which in turn builds confidence with our guests.

Parallel to AIMClean, we created AIMConnect for small meetings and events. Our properties are innovative and creative in redefining how events are executed, from repurposing outdoor spaces, to utilizing large ballrooms for social distancing, to how we package up food and beverage offerings, all while adhering to the health department guidance and local ordinances.

Q: What are your thoughts on the future of the hospitality and tourism industry? What will it take for consumer confidence to return, and what solutions will remain from the lessons learned during the pandemic?

A: Long-term leisure demand is returning; those are the green shoots we have been seeing as pent up demand returns. The corporate and group recovery is slower, but the protocols we have in place ensure confidence and safety of our guests and associates. Full recovery to pre-pandemic levels, especially with convention hotels, will depend on the timing of a vaccine. Extended stay, economy, and select service verticals have been performing well, as well as resorts that offer wide open spaces and social distancing. Through it all, we’ve been agile and resilient, and realize how important it is to communicate more often with our associates, our guests, and hotel owners as this challenging environment has evolved, and will continue to do so, for the foreseeable future.