Reality check; those in the mix are the ones who get the benefits. And if you want to be an influencer it’s critical to be in the center of the action. It’s the way of the world and especially true when it comes to government. The ones that have the ears of lawmakers are the ones who have the best shot at setting the political agenda.
It’s why lobbying has become a multi-billion dollar business and it’s why the U.S. Travel Association has continually stepped up its efforts on Capitol Hill. Now the organization is taking it a step further with a new initiative that trains people how to more effectively influence political bigwigs in Congress from within their own districts.
We love the idea of this program as it’s essentially a kit for giving some sharp tools with which to hone the skills of the lobbying neophyte. If you didn’t know where to begin before, now you have a place to start.
Dubbed Travel Blitz, the program suggests many ways to become a direct influencer with your local Congressional representatives. It even shares key issues and ways to present them to Members of Congress and their staff such as visa reform, customs and entry issues, the importance of government meetings, and a focus on transportation and infrastructure issues to meet forecasted demand.
"Those of us closest to our industry know the critical role travel plays in our nation's economic health, but we must spread that important message to every Member of Congress," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "Travel Blitz will activate travel grassroots advocates to engage key Members of Congress and tell personal stories about how travel contributes to the economy and how it provides important jobs throughout communities nationwide."
Patricia Rojas, VP of Government Affairs with the U.S. Travel Association, said in a conference call this afternoon travel is a $1.9 trillion industry that has 14.4 million employees. It also leads the economy in job creation when compared to other sectors. Jobs in the travel industry have seen growth in 31 of the last 37 months.
The net effect is that travel and tourism positively affected every Congressional district in the country, said Rojas.
“We are working to ensure leaders understand the economic value travel has on our nation but we cannot do it alone. To make progress this message must come from all communities across the country.
Congress responds best if they hear [these messages] regularly from constituents as they build long term relationships with Members of Congress and staff regarding key issues on the industry,” said Rojas.
Some basic ideas on how to grown Congressional relationships locally included hosting:
- Travel industry roundtables in their states and districts with local leaders and travel employees;
- Back-of-house tours at airports, hotels and convention centers; and
- Groundbreaking data and research on travel's contributions to the nation's economy.
More information to get you started is available at http://travelcoalition.org/campaigns/travel-blitz
According to the USTA, the name Travel Blitz takes its inspiration from the football play when additional players rush the quarterback. Several elements from football will be infused into the program in the coming months including videos shot in football stadiums, identifying MVPs throughout the year and calling USTA consultants ‘coaches’.
“We are very excited to launch the travel blitz campaign. Our goal is to lengthen and deepen our bench of Champions in Congress,” said Candice Knezevic, Director, Grassroots and Industry Relations, U.S. Travel Association. “You have to have avid advocates in Congress standing up for your cause and that is what this campaign is all about. It’s about engaging and enabling people to recruit travel Champions in Congress.”
Knezevic said face to face meetings are the best way to communicate and get business done. This program is about encouraging and providing tools to the travel community for face to face encounters with delegations in their district, she said. “We provide playbook and tools to travel community for you to run the plays.”
Kelly Schulz, Vice President of Communications and Public Relations, New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau has already started efforts for her hometown. “Here in New Orleans the campaign is part of a larger advocacy campaign we work on every day for our $5 billion industry that employs 75,000 citizens. Yet we still have to struggle for funding and recognition,” said Schulz.
Schulz added the town hosted a roundtable style luncheon on January 16 for Louisiana Senator David Vitter. At the event 15 members of the New Orleans tourism board spoke with Vitter about topics such as national security, GSA travel cuts, visa waivers, improving TSA standards and the expansion of the pre-check program.
“This was a big success and we are looking forward to doing it again. He appreciated it as well and also knew we were top industry leaders and represented the highest level of industry,” said Schulz.