The Asian American Hotel Owners Association will welcome 6,000 attendees for its annual convention Tuesday evening, the largest corporate gathering hosted in Dallas since the COVID-19 pandemic began 17 months ago.
The four-day event will be held at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center and could be a boon for local restaurants and hotels in downtown Dallas. The hotel industry in the Dallas area was still experiencing recession-like conditions at the start of the summer as corporate travel remains at a near standstill due to the ongoing pandemic, according to a recent report from the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
AAHOA represents close to 20,000 hotel owners. Its members own nearly one in every two hotels in the U.S., according to the organization.
Attendees will attend sessions about how to recruit and retain talent, how to navigate COVID-19 relief and other hot topics in the hotel and lodging space. The association is also hosting what it describes as a block party at Texas Live! in Arlington Wednesday evening.
Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to address the conference Wednesday, according to AAHOA. The last time the Georgia-headquartered association met was in 2019 when the San Diego Convention Center hosted nearly 9,000 attendees including exhibitors.
The hotel owners from around the country are descending on Dallas for their first annual meeting in two years as Dallas County is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 that has officials considering declaring a severe threat once again. The county continues to recommend that individuals wear a mask and avoid medium- to large-size gatherings regardless of vaccination status.
And employers who wanted to get workers back into the office soon are once again battling uncertainty as the delta variant continues to spread.
In a statement, interim president and CEO Ken Greene said the association is confident that the event can be held safely.
“We are following all CDC guidelines closely and will keep all attendees informed of any changes to our safety protocols,” Greene said, pointing to the convention center and area hotel’s Global Biorisk Advisory Council STAR accreditation as a reason Dallas was ready to host the association responsibly.
The organization has put safety measures in place, including mandatory masks in public spaces, according to the AAHOA. It has expanded the trade show floor to allow for more distancing and placed hand sanitizer stations around the convention center space. AAHOA will also have rooms disinfected between conference sessions and will disinfect the trade showroom overnight.
Thousands of attendees will stay in hotels throughout the central business district, including the Omni, Hyatt Regency, Westin, Magnolia and Indigo hotels where the organization is offering group discount rates to its members.
The city of Dallas’ tourism arm, VisitDallas, worked to bring the convention to the city, according to AAHOA spokeswoman Melissa Stern.
“On behalf of our mayor, city council and our entire city, I want to say welcome and thank you for choosing Dallas for your event“, VisitDallas CEO Craig Davis said in a video recording shared on the event registration website.
The city of Dallas has been trying to restart in-person events for almost a year as COVID-19 cases rise and fall. In October, the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center welcomed the Mecum Auto Auction and 2,000 masked attendees. And one month ago, CPAC hosted roughly 4,000 conservatives for an event at the Hilton Anatole.