History of the Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association

Serving Ohio’s Lodging Industry for 125 years!

The Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association (OHLA) is one of America’s oldest hotel associations. Founded in 1893, the Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association provides advocacy, information, resources, and education for operators and professionals in every type of lodging business across the state. OHLA supports efforts to grow Ohio’s travel economy, to provide jobs for hospitality professionals, and to maintain a prosperous hotel and lodging market.

In 1893, Mr. D.C. Shears, general manager of The Grand Hotel in Cincinnati was elected president of the newly formed Ohio State Hotel Association. Other officers included Mr. W.C. Terry of the Hotel French in Lima and Mr. W.H. Maxwell of the Palace Hotel in Cincinnati. Nineteen members signed up in the organization meeting with each paying dues of $5 to $10 annually.

The main purpose for creating OHLA was to stop hustlers from passing bad five-dollar bills as a method of payment at hotels. However, OHLA was also created to expand educational opportunities and to establish a legislative voice for the hospitality industry.

The name of the association has changed four times since its inception. Each name signifies a significant step forward in the history of the association and the need to have a name that accurately reflects the structure of the industry and its membership. In 1917, the Ohio State Hotel Association became the Ohio Hotel Association. In 1923, it became the Ohio Hotels Association. In 1964, the name was changed to the Ohio Hotel & Motel Association when it merged memberships with the Ohio Motel Association. On January 1, 1998, the name was changed to its current name: The Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association.

The association has also changed as American society has evolved. Coinciding with women’ suffrage in 1916, the by-laws were changed to eliminate the word “male” and thereby permit females to join the association. Later that year the first woman, a manager at a Cleveland hotel, joined the association. However, it was not until 1993 when Diane Henderson, general manager of the Days Inn Sharonville, was elected the association’s first female president

In 1921 OHLA joined with the American Hotel & Lodging Association (formerly American Hotel & Motel Association. AHLA has provided a voice for the hotel industry on a national level since 1910. Just two years later the OHLA gained its not-for-profit status and was incorporated under the signature of the seven member executive committee. Today the OHLA continues to operate as a not-for-profit (501-C6) organization.

Strong membership in 1928 led to the creation of several city lodging councils that year. OHLA was able to collect over $30,000 in delinquent accounts and bad checks for its members in 1928. This impressive collection increased members and led to the formation of lodging Councils in Cleveland and Dayton. OHLA continues to work to improve members bottom lines with programs such as workers compensation group rating, group insurance, electricity and natural gas programs, and others.

Now OHLA oversees local lodging councils in Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Northwest Ohio, Mahoning Valley, Southwest Ohio, and a Unique Lodging of Ohio (ULO) Council.

In 1928 the OHLA helped create the first hotel course of study at the Ohio State University. The working relationship between OHLA and OSU is still strong today and has extended to other universities with hospitality programs across the state.

OHLA has had a strong list of Executive Directors. One man whose history is forever linked with the history of the OHLA is Captain H. Mowrey. “Cap”, was OHLA’s Executive Director for fifty of its first 100 years (1933-1983). Captain Mowrey retired in 1983 and passed away in 1986.

OHLA victories include defeat of a proposed statewide lodging tax in 2005, defeat of a proposed 4% lodging tax in Montgomery County/Dayton in 2009, defeat of the first lodging tax ballot issue in Zanesville in 2010, and successful support of a new funding model in 2012 that can double the Ohio Tourism Division budget to up to $10 million annually.

The current President & CEO of OHLA is Joe Savarise. OHLA has increased its focus on local lodging council representation, state government affairs efforts, and helping members improve services while reducing their bottom line.