By Dale J. Venturini, President & CEO, RI Hospitality Association
We have come a long way as an industry since March of 2020, when our restaurants were forced to suspend their on-premise dining operations and our hotels were nearly empty with travel and events at a virtual standstill.
Although it feels like an eternity ago, our industry is not long removed from more stringent operational oversight, empty dining rooms and vacant lodging facilities. While we are not yet fully back to where we would like to be, our industry is in a much, much better position today than even a month ago.
That being said, each hospitality business is unique, and how individual businesses chose to approach the pandemic was their choice and prerogative as long as they followed the current guidances. Whether a restaurant owner decided to keep their dining room closed and only offer takeout or a hotel operator preferred not to allow guests from “high-risk states” to stay, as long as they followed the mandated public safety protocols outlined by our lawmakers in Rhode Island, there’s no reason for those operators to be ostracized for doing what they believed was in the best interests for their businesses.
What worked for one business may not work for another, and as a community of hospitality professionals, it is critically important that we support and encourage each other and not Monday morning quarterback the decisions that a colleague has made in the best interests of his/her business.
We strongly believe that the businesses that make up our industry – from restaurants to hotels and everything in between – share common goals. Those goals range from reopening at full capacity to retaining and rewarding loyal staff, and, of course, ensuring profitability. When we look at our businesses through an individual lens, we forget that our industry relies on the success of all its partners’ contributions.
A booked hotel leads to a busy restaurant, and a busy restaurant helps liquor and food suppliers fulfill orders, so on and so forth; Rhode Island’s hospitality industry is truly an interconnected ecosystem. With that, each of us has an unspoken responsibility to our peers and colleagues to act as cheerleaders for our industry, using our individual resources and platforms to ensure its viability as a whole.
At the RI Hospitality Association, we advocate on behalf of Rhode Island’s entire hospitality industry, not just our members. The issues that affect our industry do not pick and choose who they impact; the consequences of increased restrictions, employee shortages, and health and safety concerns have had a ripple effect throughout every level of our industry. From corporate chain restaurants and hotels to small family-owned businesses, no one was spared from the economic impact of the pandemic.
Through our advocacy and philanthropic efforts, direct collaboration with state legislators and targeted relief programs, we believe that RIHA has done its part in acting as the “voice of the industry.” The legislation we develop, present and oftentimes see enacted into law is a direct result of conversations with our members, as well as extended industry operators, owners and employees. We leave no stone unturned, and we are always willing to lend an ear to anyone who needs one.
Your voice is the most effective advocacy tool that we have. No one knows the hospitality industry better than its business owners, operators and workers. To learn more about the issues affecting our industry, or to voice your concerns, please consider becoming a member of the RI Hospitality Association. To do so, please visit: bit.ly/3uG2QwG.
A veteran of more than 25 years in the hospitality industry, Venturini is considered by many to be the voice of the industry in the state of Rhode Island. She has been instrumental in improving the industry’s educational and training programs in the state, as well as enhancing the bottom line of the business she represents. Venturini splits her time between the office and the State House, a constant presence for her membership.