Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Highlighting Asian American and Pacific Islander Contributions in Florida’s Hospitality Industry

Since the 1970’s, there have been efforts to celebrate the rich cultural contributions brought to America by those of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage. In recent decades, May has been designated Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI).

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have contributed greatly to the American community through various industries including the arts, science, business, and more. Here in Florida, we could not be more proud of the numerous contributions of individuals from Asian American and Pacific Islander backgrounds to make Florida’s hospitality industry the strongest in the nation. In honor of AAPI heritage month, we would like to highlight just a few amazing individuals and their outstanding achievements to keep us Hospitality Strong.

Dennis Chan, Chef and Owner, Blue Bamboo, Jacksonville, Florida

Dennis Chan grew up in the hospitality industry and his family’s record of restaurant ownership dates back more than 80 years. His dream was to follow in the family business, and, after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, he opened his own restaurant. His leadership in his community and in the local and statewide hospitality industry is commendable. During the struggles of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was able to not only survive but grow and thrive. He was recently announced as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Person of the Year for the entire state of Florida. We cheer him on as he travels to DC next week for his honors and nomination for the national award. Thank you, Dennis, for your passion, your service to your community, and your leadership on the FRLA Northeast Florida Chapter Board!


Sheldon Suga, VP & Managing Director, Hawks Cay Resort, Duck Key

Sheldon Suga is an outstanding and longtime leader in the hospitality industry – not just in Florida – but across the world. His background extends to hospitality executive positions in Canada, Puerto Rico, Japan, and more! Sheldon is known for his kindness and business leadership and has served on his local FRLA chapter boards. Most recently, Sheldon served as FRLA’s Chairman of the Board in the longest tenure and throughout the worst crisis to face the hospitality industry in recent history – the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the crisis he faced in his day-to-day position managing a top national resort in The Keys, he was leading efforts as Chairman of our statewide Board to strategize on best practices and policies to help alleviate the struggles that were paralyzing our industry. His involvement in advocacy for Florida hotels and restaurants was key to our accomplishing so much during the 2021 Legislative Session and helped our industry begin its long road to recovery. Thank you, Sheldon, for your tenacity, kindness, and leading us back into doing what we do best – providing the best customer service for our guests to keep them coming back!

Olivia Hoblit, Regional Manager, Innisfree Hotels, Amelia Island and Current Chairwoman of the FRLA Board of Directors

Olivia Hoblit is incredibly special to Florida’s hospitality industry and FRLA. She currently serves as Chairwoman of the Board for FRLA. We recently highlighted Olivia’s thoughts on leadership during Women’s History Month. Coming to the U.S. from the Philippines as a young teenager, she was determined to succeed in a new country. And she surely has! One of Olivia’s most well-known principles is investing in the people around her, those who serve underneath her, and locating those individuals with talent to mentor them. She gained so much from being mentored and invested in, so her passion is paying that forward. She believes strongly in the high school programs that introduce students into hospitality – HTMP for hotels and ProStart for culinary. Knowing there are leaders out there like Olivia, with her focus on the people and the future of the industry helps us to secure that future as we face historic labor challenges. Her mantra is to “always make things” better, and with Olivia leading, we know she will continue to do just that.

Thank you to Dennis, Sheldon, and Olivia for speaking with us and letting us feature you this month!

To learn more about Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, click here.