Spotlight On: Robert Agrusa

In February, Robert Agrusa became the President and CEO of the Central Florida
Hotel and Lodging Association after Richard Maladecki, who served as CFHLA’s President and CEO for nearly a quarter century, retired.

Agrusa, a Florida native, plans to bring CFHLA and the Central Florida region back on a positive track following the pandemic.

“I saw this as an incredible opportunity to lead this association and the hospitality community out of this pandemic and into this new era of travel and tourism in Central Florida,” Agrusa says. “I thought it was an amazing opportunity to help serve and support our community when it was really needed.”

CFHLA is one of Central Florida’s largest and most influential trade groups. It represents close
to 80% of the more than 125,500 hotel rooms in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties, and
nearly 500 organizations that participate in the hospitality and tourism industries.

“The Board of Directors and all members of CFHLA are extremely excited to have Robert onboard leading us into the bright future of Central Florida Tourism,” says Jesse Martinez, CFHLA Chairman of the Board and General Manager of The Alfond Inn at Rollins. “He brings a strategic vision to our association, which will be critical to our ability to come out of the pandemic successfully. We know his collaborative nature and business experience will only help strengthen CFHLA’s presence within our community and governmental offices.”

Agrusa emphasizes the need to lead Central Florida in a consistent direction that is sustainable for the demand tourism brings.

“In Florida, tourism is one of our top three economic drivers,” Agrusa says. “It is vastly
important not just to us in Central Florida but to the rest of the state that we maintain a strong
economic and political climate that supports the industry.”

The biggest challenge that the tourism and hospitality industries are currently facing is the workforce, Agrusa says. Moving forward, CFHLA will also focus on affordable workforce housing, increasing access to transportation options, and child care accessibility.

In addition to addressing these immediate concerns, Agrusa wants to focus on leading the next generation to succeed in the industry.

“We have to do a better job working with our schools,” Agrusa says. “I’m building mentorships,
internships, and partnerships to help give these students a better perspective about future careers in the tourism and the hospitality community.”

Agrusa brings 15 years of political and business experience to CFHLA. Prior to his current role, he served as the President and CEO of Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce in 2017. In addition, he worked with the Orlando Economic Partnership where he oversaw the business force, the political action arm of the organization including government affairs, advocacy and candidate endorsements. Agrusa also worked in the Florida legislature and across the state working on political campaigns. He most notably worked for former Senate Presidents, Andy Gardner and Jeff Atwater.

To Agrusa, this position is more than sitting behind a desk and he is enjoying getting out in the community to better understand the needs of local hospitality and tourism groups.

“For me, it was really about going all in and understanding all the components of the tourism and
hospitality community, how they intertwine, and really learning from not just general managers
but from their employees,” Agrusa says.

You can learn more about the CFHLA and how to become a member at cfhla.org.

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Written by Alina Hoarau

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