Annapolis, Md. (January 11, 2022) – On January 6, 2022, members of the Maryland Hotel Lodging Association (MHLA) – including owners, managers, associates, and partners from Maryland’s statewide lodging industry – gathered virtually for the 2022 MHLA Government Affairs Kickoff. As the Maryland General Assembly prepares to open its 2022 session on January 12, MHLA briefed its members on the state of the industry as it continues to adjust to and recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and previewed the key issues the association’s Government Affairs Committee and lobbyists will be closely monitoring in Annapolis this year.

“An industry of hope”: Thomas Penny, Donohoe Hospitality president, says promoting career opportunities is key to industry recovery

With many hotels still experiencing decreased revenue because of the pandemic, and the entire industry coping with a nationwide worker shortage, the workforce will continue to be a major concern for MHLA members this year. MHLA is committed to showcasing how its members are applying innovative solutions to attract both former and future talent and raising awareness for the many fulfilling job opportunities and career paths that exist in hotels in every region of the state.

Thomas Penny, president of Donohoe Hospitality, was MHLA’s featured speaker at the Government Affairs Kickoff and, like many in the industry, has experienced these opportunities firsthand. Born and raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Penny shared his personal journey during his 30-year career, getting his start as a hotel dishwasher while a senior in high school and today overseeing one of the largest independent hotel management companies in metropolitan D.C. Penny emphasized it is important to engage with elected officials as much as possible to create solutions that benefit both the industry and local communities. As an example, he cited how one Donohoe hotel, Canopy by Hilton Baltimore Harbor Point, is working in partnership with Baltimore City to develop a rigorous training program that will enable the City’s squeegee kids to apply their entrepreneurial skills to earn entry-level positions in local hotels.

“Our industry is an industry of hope. And hope is going to play a critical part as we build back from this pandemic. My story is consistent with the experiences of many people in our industry. We need to educate our elected officials on the kinds of opportunities that exist within our business because too often people define it as just making beds and serving tables,” said Penny. “The strength of our industry has always been the security we afford our employees. The pandemic obviously disrupted that, and now going forward, we need to rebrand our industry to welcome back more team members.” 

MHLA Government Affairs Committee previews the 2022 session and asks for member support

MHLA lobbyists Frank Boston and Ari Plaut from the Law Offices of Boston & Plaut previewed the upcoming Maryland General Assembly, which will be conducted virtually until at least February due to the recent COVID-19 surge. MHLA will be closely monitoring all proposed legislation that may impact the state’s lodging industry, including a pre-filed bill on human trafficking and anticipated bills on Right of Recall and raising Maryland’s minimum wage.

MHLA’s position and actions on these issues and others are guided by its Government Affairs Committee. Consisting of a diverse group of representatives from hotel brands across the state, the committee meets weekly to actively advance the interests of MHLA members and engage with lawmakers to advocate for legislation that is favorable to the industry. The MHLA Government Affairs Committee is currently co-chaired by Jason Curtis, general manager, Hotel Indigo Baltimore, and Jim Stark, general manager, Best Western Plus BWI Airport-Arundel Mills.

MHLA lodging members can support the Government Affairs Committee by participating in weekly meetings, volunteering to testify as a subject matter expert, or sharing any connection with local representatives which may help facilitate dialogues on important issues. To learn more, please contact MHLA at

“We are nearly two years into this pandemic, and it certainly has been an uneven recovery for hotels across the country and here in Maryland,” said Amy Rohrer, President, and CEO, MHLA. “But we are very confident in the resiliency of our industry and are committed to advancing the interests and legislation that best supports our continued recovery. We are extremely grateful to our members who volunteer tirelessly to our Government Affairs Committee – their invaluable perspective and experience make our advocacy possible.”

The MHLA Government Affairs Kickoff was presented by the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), the largest hotel owners association in the nation, and benefactor sponsor Marriott International. Supporting sponsors included the Maryland Center for Hospitality Training, Best Western Plus BWI Airport Hotel, and the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association.

“This continues to be an extremely challenging time for our industry, and we are honored to support MHLA’s Government Affairs Committee to ensure the voices and concerns of Maryland’s hoteliers are heard by the state’s leaders,” said Priti Patel, AAHOA ambassador and MHLA Government Affairs Committee advisory member.

“The MHLA Government Affairs Committee plays an essential role in ensuring Maryland’s hotel industry is well represented in Annapolis, and Marriott is proud to support their advocacy efforts,” said Travis Cutler, director of State Government Affairs, Marriott International.

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