The American Hotel & Lodging Association is laying out its 2014 plan to affect change in favor of the lodging industry. Fresh off changing its membership
model to focus firmly on advocacy, the organization is now taking on a variety of issues bubbling up in Capitol Hill. And it’s critical for the lodging community to be heard.
The goal is ensuring the hotel business sees new legislation fall in favor of owners and operators of hotels throughout the country, while also encouraging additional ways to boost the level of travel to U.S. based hotels.
“We have to speak loudly,” said Katherine Lugar, President and CEO of the AH&LA, last week during the Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS). “We are achieving alignment between brands, owners, management companies and state associations. It is no secret that the often fragmented nature of this industry has been exploited. Our new structure allows our industry to come together with a common, thoughtful approach.”
Lugar said the organization is building a long term and sustained proactive approach to ensure its message is heard before it is too late in the legislative process. “Running to Washington when you have a crisis is not most effective way to do it,” said Lugar.
Lugar said the organization will stay firmly focused on critical issues and utilize collaboration to make the industry’s messages heard. “We are telling our powerful industry narrative to policy makers such as the travel industry, which has had 12 straight quarters of economic growth and 1.8 million employees,” she said.
The 2014 legislative agenda focuses on employment, healthcare, terrorism insurance, taking on patent trolls and more. To attain these goals the AH&LA is adding people to its governmental affairs team. New advocates will be named shortly.
“However, just as strong is the need to educate policymakers at every level of government that their actions have a direct bearing on the ability of hoteliers to continue this growth. Whether it is access to a strong, well-trained workforce, tax policies that enable hoteliers to operate on a level playing field with online competitors, or promoting responsible federal travel policies, Congress and the Administration have the power to either support or hinder the economic strength of the industry,” Lugar said earlier this year.
Here are the main issues the AH&LA and members of the lodging community must pay attention to this year, according to the AH&LA:
- Reforming the country’s immigration system to ensure employers have access to a seasonal workforce when no American workers are available to fill jobs. “We want meaningful comprehensive immigration reform and this is our moment of opportunity,” Lugar said.
- Implementing targeted, much-needed changes to the Affordable Care Act, including changing the law’s current definition of a full-time employee from 30- to 40-hours per week and repealing the auto-enrollment mandate. “We need to better define who is a full time employee and not have artificial incentives for a part time work force. Also, automatically enrolling someone in healthcare on their 91st day of employment, even if person if covered elsewhere, does not make sense. That drives costs, nuisances and duplication. Fortunately there is a growing understanding of this on both sides of the aisle,” Lugar explained.
- Ensuring that any new federal tax proposals are pro-business and do not restrain the lodging industry’s ability to continue growing and creating jobs. “Online Travel Agencies (OTA’s) are a critical part of the (hotel) distribution system and they have to play by the same rules,” said Lugar.
- Securing passage in the House of Representatives of the Jobs Originated Through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act, to drive more foreign visitors to this country and to the front doors of hotels. To achieve this the government needs to expand countries that are part of the visa waive program and make the process of obtaining a visa to visit the U.S.A. much simpler in many countries.
- Eliminating the growing threat posed by “patent trolls” and their predatory, abusive lawsuits.
- Securing an extension of the important terrorism risk insurance (TRIA) program to provide an important backstop for economic continuity and recovery. “We are seeking reauthorization of the terrorism insurance program to make sure there is access to the right insurance polices,” Lugar said.
The lodging industry will also work closely with partners at the state and local level to beat back extreme living wage initiatives that are proven job killers, said Lugar.