Yesterday, two of the state’s leading hospitality associations became one, with the Washington Restaurant Association and Washington Lodging Association finalizing a partnership first announced late last year.

The two groups began operations under a joint operating agreement on Oct. 1, combining staff and operational functions in the WRA’s Olympia office. Yesterday, the associations signed final contracts and created cornerstone plans for a united hospitality association in Washington.

President and CEO Anthony Anton will head the new entity going forward.

“This is an exciting time for our membership and the businesses they represent across Washington. Combined leadership capabilities and viewpoints also create more opportunities for innovation,” said Anton. “By joining forces and harnessing the ideas from all of the hospitality sectors, we really have a chance to lift people up and do great things.

“Now, we can even more effectively address the challenges facing our industry from providing resources to government affairs, to the shared goal of finding and training a future workforce; we have never been in a stronger position to really make a difference.”

The next step in the WLA and WRA collaboration, launching of a unified new brand, will take effect on Oct. 1, 2016. The new, unified hospitality association will have more than 6,000 members and advocate on behalf of an industry that employs more than 250,000 Washingtonians and generates $17.7 billion in revenue each year. It will also serve as the primary source of hospitality information for the state’s restaurants and hotels.

“This alliance delivers even more value to members, and we are excited to be joining forces with the Washington Restaurant Association,” said Matt Van Der Peet, WLA chair and general manager of the Westin Bellevue Hotel. “By coming together, we are better able to leverage the strength and resources of both associations, benefiting our members, their employees and, ultimately, the state as a whole,” he said.