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 Don Johnson, Co-founder of Vagabond Franchise System,
Recipient of the Lawson A. Odde Award


Washington, D.C., February 2, 2009 – Don Johnson, CHA, a member of the board of directors of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) representing partner state association, the California Hotel & Lodging Association (CH&LA), is the recipient of the prestigious Lawson A. Odde Award.
Johnson co-founded three companies – Vista Investments, Vista Inns Management Co., and Vagabond Franchise System, Inc., a portfolio that now comprises 43 limited-service hotels with 3,000 guestrooms.  He has since reduced his involvement to owning and operating Vagabond Inns in Palm Springs and Oxnard, California. 
The Lawson A. Odde Award recognizes Johnson’s outstanding contributions to the lodging industry as well as maintaining strong relationships between AH&LA and the partner state association.  In addition to his AH&LA board representation for CH&LA, Johnson currently serves on the AH&LA Audit Committee and chairs the Educational Scholarship Committee for the American Hotel & Lodging Foundation.  
Johnson has been an active member of the CH&LA board of directors for the past fifteen years, serving as chairman in 2002.  He currently serves on the CH&LA Executive, Audit, and Education Committees and is also a member of the CH&LA Education Foundation Board of Directors.  Johnson established the Kevin Johnson Memorial Scholarship for the CH&LA Education Foundation in honor of his son and is passionate about education related to the lodging industry.   Previously, he has been recognized with AH&LA’s State Leadership Award and has also been inducted into CH&LA’s Hall of Fame.
Johnson’s foray into the hospitality industry can be traced back to his service in the army when he worked part-time in a restaurant and then full-time following his discharge, after which Johnson was hired as the first civilian club manager at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia.  Soon, Johnson was in charge of construction and management of a 154-room hotel in Columbus, Georgia, which he then jointly purchased and built a mixed-use development around the hotel and convention center.
Johnson then worked for Quality Inns International, now Choice Hotels International, as a regional franchise director, and has also held the post of chief operating officer of Imperial Hotel Corporation and the Madison Hotel Corporation, where he helped grow both companies with 20 hotel openings and additions.
“I have known Don for more than 30 years and his reputation is that of a true professional with tremendous integrity,” said AH&LA President/CEO Joseph A. McInerney, CHA.  “Over the decades, he has remained passionate about the industry and an active participant in the lodging community.”
This distinguished award is named after Lawson A. Odde, the second executive vice president of AH&LA, who was responsible for the modernization of membership expansion and financial operations. The Odde Award is given annually to a member of the AH&LA board of directors and is chosen by a vote of past Odde Award winners.
Serving the hospitality industry for nearly a century, AH&LA is the sole national association representing all sectors and stakeholders in the lodging industry, including individual hotel property members, hotel companies, student and faculty members, and industry suppliers. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AH&LA provides members with national advocacy on Capitol Hill, public relations and image management, education, research and information, and other value-added services to provide bottom line savings and ensure a positive business climate for the lodging industry. Partner state associations provide local representation and additional cost-saving benefits to members.

 Jessica Soklow

Also See: Thomas F. Hewitt, Chairman and CEO of Interstate Hotels Corporation Receives the Lawson A. Odde Award / April 2001
Don Johnson, President & CEO of Vagabond Franchise System, Inc. Inducted Into the California Hotel & Lodging Association Hall of Fame / December 2005

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