AAHOA’s unique and impactful Small Delegation Meetings encourage members to be increasingly active.
by BRIAN KAISSI
Small Delegation Meetings were first instituted in 2013 under the leadership of former AAHOA Chairman Mehul (Mike) Patel, former Vice President of Government Affairs Chip Rogers and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Tarun Patel. These monthly meetings were created so AAHOA members could maintain relationships with elected officials throughout the year and were designed to mirror national fly-ins on a more targeted level.
Just after the first few months, the program proved to be a tremendous success with considerable potential.
In the following three years, hundreds of AAHOA members met with their elected officials. Soon, Representatives and Senators began to recognize AAHOA members as knowledgeable and involved citizens, small business owners and community leaders.
AAHOA has placed a premium on building long-lasting relationships and inspiring political and civic engagement. This is truly a unique model of advocating on behalf of the industry, and AAHOA is one of the only organizations in the country that facilitates a membership program with this level of frequency and familiarity.
The AAHOA Government Affairs team continues to build strong relationships with Members of Congress and industry partners who understand the grave impact that hoteliers have on the economy. In tandem, AAHOA members are increasingly active at the local, state and federal level. Together, we look forward to continue developing our advocacy strategies and expanding our brand. ■
Brian Kaissi is the Government Affairs Coordinator for the Asian American Hotel Owners Association and can be reached at [email protected].
How do Small Delegation Meetings work?
Every month, AAHOA asks four to five members from a specific state or region of a state – a “Small Delegation” – to come to Washington, D.C., for a day of meetings with their federal elected officials on Capitol Hill.
Upon arrival, each delegation is first briefed on AAHOA’s top legislative priorities. Members learn about issues that are currently harming small businesses and hoteliers, such as the joint-employer definition, drive-by lawsuits and important tax reform. Attendees are also asked to come prepared to talk about specific issues affecting hoteliers in their home districts.
Members are then briefed on who they will be meeting with, and learn about each elected official’s relevant committee assignments, background and known stances on the issues we care about.
When it is time to storm Capitol Hill, attendees are extremely knowledgeable and prepared to make each 20–30-minute meeting as impactful as possible. At the conclusion of each meeting, issue briefs are distributed to Representatives, Senators and their staff.
Ultimately, these meetings are a critical component of AAHOA’s mission to attain legislative successes on behalf of hoteliers nationwide. Nobody is more effective in urging legislators to support AAHOA’s priorities than constituents who are informed on the issues.
The Government Affairs team coordinates with AAHOA regional directors across the country to ensure several members are able to represent AAHOA at our nation’s capital each and every month.
For more information on how to get involved, contact Government Affairs Coordinator Brian Kaissi at [email protected].
A member’s perspective
Interview with Mayur Patel,
AAHOA North Texas Ambassador
What prompted you to get involved with AAHOA Government Affairs and the Small Delegation Meetings?
I became involved with AAHOA Government Affairs, with no prior experience, during the 2012 AAHOA Fall National Advocacy Conference. This was my first legislative experience, and I have attended every major legislative conference since. AAHOA’s legislative conference and government influence have substantially changed for the better since 2012. The number of meetings we are able to have with members of Congress and Senate, as well as the number of attendees, has been increasing year after year. Ultimately, I decided to attend the North Texas delegation meeting for one very simple reason: to help protect AAHOA members’ hard earned investments.
What was the experience like for you the day your delegation had so many meetings? What was the most impactful or memorable moment of that day?
The experience I had during this meeting was remarkable. Having nearly 20 meetings scheduled in different buildings may seem overwhelming, however, having the opportunity to educate our elected officials and explain the critical issues impacting hoteliers’ livelihood brings the utmost excitement. Not to mention, each meeting ends with the possibility that the congressman or senator co-sponsors one of our bills.
The most impactful/memorable moment of the day was our meeting with Congressman Henry Cuellar. He truly took the time to understand our needs and really does understand how hurtful the new joint employer standard is for small businesses. What is exceptionally surprising and pleasing is that Congressman Cuellar is willing to fight for AAHOA to get HR 3459 passed despite lacking support from his party.
What would you tell an AAHOA member who is on the fence about getting involved with more government affairs efforts?
What are you waiting for?
If there was ever a time we needed involvement from our members in government affairs efforts, it is now. What we can take away from Georgia imposing a $5 fee on each hotel room night is that we need more involvement in all levels of government. We need our members to be more involved with their local government agencies, state representatives and federal elected officials. The more proactive we are, the better we will be able to protect our investments.
How are you planning on staying involved in AAHOA government affairs efforts in the future?
At the federal level, I will continue to attend AAHOA’s semi-annual legislative conferences in D.C. I will also follow up with our federal elected officials when they are back in their district offices and try to coordinate Back of the House Tours to help them truly understand the day-to-day hardships faced by hotel operators. I also commit to becoming more involved on a local and state level.