President and CEO of Best Western Hotels & Resorts David Kong will retire at the end of 2021. Kong joined Best Western in 2001 and was named CEO in 2004. His 17 years as CEO have made him the longest tenured in the industry.

Under Kong’s leadership, BWH Hotel Group, Best Western’s parent company, grew from one to 18 brands, covering nearly every segment, including boutique, lifestyle and extended stay. It also acquired WorldHotels Collection and hotel property management software company Autoclerk.

Kong arrived in the United States from Hong Kong as a young adult with “no friends, no connection and no money,” he said in an interview with Yahoo Finance. Despite this, Kong said the hospitality industry empowered him to dream boldly about his future and to pursue his dreams with no hesitation.

“I’m an immigrant,” Kong said. “I came to this country with nothing… I got a job as a dishwasher and bus boy and look at what’s happened to me—now the CEO of one of the biggest hotel companies in the world.” He said his story “speaks to the dynamic opportunities the industry offers.”

During the challenges 2020 brought, Kong displayed resilience and commitment to keep the industry moving forward, extending more than $65 million in fee rebates to BHW’s hoteliers since 2020.

Kong helped roll out the company’s We Care Clean program, an enhancement to the company’s cleaning protocols and standards. Kong also met with former President Donald Trump and other government leaders to spread the word about the difficulties the hospitality industry suffered and to advocate for federal relief.

“I feel blessed to have been surrounded by exceptional teams throughout my career, and through sheer passion and dedication, we have chased bold dreams and achieved what many might have considered impossible,” he said. “I feel very fortunate to have played a role in building BWH Hotel Group into the brand it is today. I have always wanted to move on at my peak. With our caring culture, our extraordinary hoteliers, executive team and corporate staff, I have no doubt the best is yet to come for BWH Hotel Group.”

BWH Hotel Group will announce his successor at its annual convention in Las Vegas on Oct. 7.