We’ve begun a presidential election year, which means from here on out everything will be viewed through the prism of an election. In a year when election decisions will make a difference, we need to demonstrate the importance of our industry.
This year, AH&LA’s Legislative Action Summit (LAS) falls during the perfect time (Feb. 29-March 1) to make an impact and it is imperative that the lodging industry shows in full force. Between travel issues, labor concerns, and the online hotel booking tax, we cannot afford to wait.
Since passage of the Travel Promotion Act in 2010, AH&LA has taken this initiative and pushed it to another level. Travel is no longer viewed as an afterthought on Capitol Hill, but instead recognized for what it is: one of the top industries in the United States, with the greatest potential for growing the economy and creating jobs. The Discover America Partnership, of which AH&LA is a founding leader, is driving home the fact that international travel means jobs. The U.S. share of the international long-haul travel market declined from 17 percent in 2000 to 12 percent in 2010—meaning the United States lost the opportunity to welcome 78 million more visitors and generate $606 billion in direct and downstream spending—enough to support more than 467,000 additional U.S. jobs annually during this period. If we could merely return to pre-9/11 tourism levels, we could create 1.3 million new jobs by 2020, and add nearly $390 billion in U.S. exports.
These are the sort of numbers that get the attention of members of Congress. At a time when elected leaders are looking for a silver bullet to fix the economy, promoting inbound travel has become increasingly popular on Capitol Hill. AH&LA has worked for years to relate how important travel and tourism is to our nation and that groundwork needs to be cultivated. Congress is considering a number of distinct bills related to attracting international visitors and we feel that the time is right to get this legislation passed. Not much legislation will move before the election, but a bi-partisan, job creating, economy-improving issue has the best chance to succeed.
In previous years, our visits to the Hill opposing the Employee Free Choice Act (Card Check) effectively made that issue toxic and killed the legislation. It was a testament to the value of bringing the lodging industry together to defeat a bill that would have subjected our employees to harassment and intimidation. Unfortunately, Card Check is back in the form of regulations and decisions from the Department of Labor (DOL) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). This “back door” Card Check is every bit as troubling as the original and being implemented through unelected agencies that are circumventing congressional will.
The NLRB has issued decisions allowing ambush union elections to be held in seven to 14 days, the gerrymandering of the workforce to unionize only specific types of employees, and requiring a poster promoting unionization in the workplace. The DOL has issued a rule that would effectively limit the discussion between counsel and management during a unionizing campaign due to disclosure requirements and has targeted the lodging industry for audits despite no evidence of infractions. Organized labor is out in full force to achieve Card Check and AH&LA is fighting back through lawsuits and amicus briefs, working with Congress to host hearings, and supporting legislation that would provide oversight for these agencies. This fight is not one to take lightly, and if we have learned anything from the Card Check debate, we need hoteliers in Congressional offices expressing our continued opposition to Card Check—in any form.
Finally, while AH&LA has successfully bottled up the Online Hotel Booking Tax on the Federal level, we need to continue to reinforce this message with lawmakers. We are seeing aggressive action on the state level, where AH&LA and its partner state associations are pushing back. We are working with governors’ offices to pre-empt action and monitoring hotspots around the country. But we are not immune to having Federal legislation, or a larger legislative vehicle with included online travel company (OTC) tax language, introduced and passed because our voices were not front and center on this issue. We have been very successful so far, but the Online Hotel Booking Tax is much too important to our industry to leave dormant. We must bring this to the forefront and remind lawmakers how devastating any OTC tax preferential legislation would be to the lodging industry.
The power of bringing the lodging industry to Capitol Hill lies in how constituents, actual voters from the Congress member’s community, sit down and discuss issues face-to-face. These meetings, where hoteliers explain issues in terms that matter to politicians—jobs, tax revenue, the monetary cost of legislation—make a difference in legislation and elections.
While union leadership is aggressively promoting its agenda and hoteliers are facing costly and harmful regulations, we need the lodging industry to join together on Capitol Hill to make our voices heard. TPA and Card Check were won due to dedicated hoteliers speaking to Congressional leaders about the impact of the legislation. Our issues are too important to leave to others.
Join AH&LA and your fellow hoteliers on Capitol Hill this spring. To register, visit www.ahla.com/LAS.