David Kong receives inaugural Arne Sorenson Social Impact Leadership Award

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), The American Hotel & Lodging Foundation and The BHN Group have revealed that David Kong, the recently retired president/CEO of BWH Hotel Group, has been named the inaugural recipient of the Arne Sorenson Social Impact Leadership Award.

Kong will be recognized during the AHLA Foundation’s premier fundraising gala, the Night of a Thousand Stars on Jan. 23, as well as during the 21st Annual Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS) on Jan. 25.

The Arne Sorenson Social Impact Leadership Award is a new award named for the late Arne Sorenson, an industry icon and former president/CEO of Marriott International who passed away in February. The award will be presented annually to a senior-level executive in the lodging industry who strives to drive change through strong leadership and community engagement. Nominations are reviewed by AHLA’s Executive Committee and representatives from ALIS.

“Like Arne, David is an industry icon—an amazing leader and among the most respected people in our industry,” said Chip Rogers, president/CEO, AHLA. “The story of David’s career trajectory, from dishwasher to CEO, is inspiring to us all—as is his commitment to the next generation of hotel leaders and the communities we serve. It has been a joy to work with David, and I can think of no better way to honor him at the conclusion of his illustrious career than with this award.”

Jeff Higley, president, The BHN Group, added, “The humanity-meets-business crossroads that Arne and David built their leadership styles around are more important than ever, so it’s an honor to acknowledge Arne’s legacy by having David as the inaugural recipient of this award. The impact of embracing a people-centric approach by prominently addressing key social issues serves as an agent of change far beyond the boundaries of the hotel industry. We should all be proud of the impact that Arne and David have contributed by being kind, thoughtful and forward-looking leaders.”

Kong’s lifelong career in hospitality began when he immigrated to the U.S. from Hong Kong as a young adult, with no money, job or connections to offer support. He started as a dishwasher and busboy and rose through the ranks, culminating in his role as president/CEO of BWH Hotel Group from 2004-2021. During his career, he also held leadership positions with KPMG Consulting, Hyatt Hotels, Omni International and Hilton Hotels.

Kong is known in the industry as a strategic thinker and innovator. Highlights of his leadership:

  • Inspiring initiatives focused on women, including BWH Hotel Group’s “Today’s Women in Leadership Forum” designed to celebrate the vital role women play both in and out of the hotel and lodging sector;
  • Fostering a BWH Hotel Group partnership with the AHLA Foundation to provide scholarships to students studying for a career in hospitality who exemplify the values of community service and high marks in academics;
  • Spearheading BWH Hotel Group’s Future Leaders Group initiative to engage and develop future generations of leaders through networking, training, career counseling and exposure to the various disciplines of the hotel business;
  • Becoming a prominent industry voice from the onset of the pandemic, advocating for hoteliers and helping ensure the survival of their business and protection of their family legacies; and
  • Driving Best Western’s establishment as a leader in the online, mobile and social media space.

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