The Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association (IHLA) honored four well-deserving recipients with its most prestigious industry awards at the Annual Hospitality Awards Luncheon on Tuesday, May 21. The celebratory afternoon was hosted by WGN Sports Reporter/Anchor Lauren Magiera and took place in conjunction with the National Restaurant Association Show at McCormick Place convention center.


Each year, the IHLA strives to honor deserving recipients who have made significant contributions to the hospitality industry in Illinois. The four awards given at the recent luncheon rank among the most prestigious.


The J. Patrick Leahy Lifetime Achievement Award is given annually to an individual who has had a successful career of high achievement, a lifelong commitment to the hotel industry and has made significant contributions to the hospitality industry in Illinois. This year, the IHLA awarded Past IHLA President and CEO, Marc Gordon as well as his predecessor Arnie Karr.

Marc Gordon’s dedication to the hospitality industry spans nearly half a century. In addition to his various career roles, he has received copious honors highlighting his contributions to hospitality in Illinois and beyond. As the former President and CEO of the IHLA, he served over 500 hotel members and 150 allied members and worked to promote, protect and educate the association’s members and constituencies for over 20 years.

Arnie Karr is an advocate and consummate spokesperson for the hotel industry having served as President of the Hotel-Motel Association of Illinois until 1997, which soon after became IHLA. He has gathered support for three different expansions of McCormick Place, been appointed as an Illinois delegate to the White House Conference on Travel and Tourism and established the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association Education Foundation which has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars toward scholarships for the next generation of hospitality professionals.


In addition, the Ambassador of Hospitality Award—given annually to those who have influenced the hotel industry in Illinois and continue to advocate for the greater good of the hotel community and those it serves—was given to another two deserving honorees this year, including Chicago’s First Lady Cruises President Holly Agra and Rebel Hospitality, LLC Principal Anthony “Tony” Klok.

Holly Agra is President of Chicago’s First Lady Cruises and Vice President of Mercury, Chicago’s Skyline Cruiseline. Celebrating 40 years with the former, she remains deeply committed to promoting Chicago as a world-class tourist destination. She also proudly served as the National Trade Association’s first woman president in 1991 for the National Passenger Vessel Association. Most recently Holly completed two three-year terms as a member of the Choose Chicago Board of Directors and Finance Committee.

Anthony “Tony” Klok is both co-founder and Principal of Rebel Hospitality. Rebel was the first to introduce boutique hotels to Chicago’s lakeshore neighborhoods. He plays an integral role in the success of 15 independent boutique and brand hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues located throughout Chicago and Memphis. Additionally, Tony serves as the 2019 Chairman of the Board of Directors of Best Western International, where he provides his expertise on creating, opening and managing hotels and restaurants.


The Annual Hospitality Awards truly champion Illinois’ most coveted professionals and will always be a marker of the major accomplishments in the industry.


About Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association

The Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association (IHLA) is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(6) trade association that represents the lodging industry in Illinois. IHLA members consist of over 400 hotels and their employees throughout the state as well as related industry partners and suppliers. IHLA provides significant benefits to its members by advocating the industry’s position on political issues, educating through quality, relevant seminars and webinars, providing promotional exposure and access to current industry news, resources, and contacts through IHLA’s website, marketing initiatives, member programs, and networking events, and recognizing hotel employees for their outstanding accomplishments, service, and leadership in the Illinois hospitality and lodging industry. For more information, visit and follow the latest news on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.