Advocacy Lessons for Hoteliers
by KATI SICONOLFI
The policy battles taking place in your own backyard have a big impact on your bottom line. For example, in a 24-hour period, the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association (PRLA) defeated a massive hotel tax increase. Based on their valuable experience, here is how hoteliers can advocate at their state capitol.
PRLA’s Story – How to Stop a Hotel Tax in 24 Hours
When PRLA’s Vice President of Government Affairs Melissa Bova’s phone started to light up with multiple phone calls from lawmakers in the middle of the afternoon, she knew something was wrong.
In a closed-door meeting, the House Republican caucus considered a proposal to increase the hotel tax by 5 percent. If the proposal became law, then Pennsylvania hoteliers would have the highest hotel tax in the nation.
Thanks to PRLA’s connections, legislators called Melissa immediately about the proposal. Supporters of the proposal planned to fast track it through the legislature, giving PRLA little time to stop it. Immediately, PRLA’s team sprang into action.
On Capitol Hill, Melissa met with key legislators to express PRLA’s concern. She provided legislators with an important case study – New York’s negative experience with hotel tax increases. In 1990, the Empire State passed a 5-percent hotel tax increase. Due to the negative impact on the industry, lawmakers repealed the tax increase in 1994.
Back at the PRLA office, President and CEO John Longstreet and Government Affairs Specialist Mary Yoder activated PRLA’s strong grassroots network. They worked with PRLA members that already had solid partnerships with legislative leaders. All PRLA members also received action alerts, asking them to call their state officials. AAHOA Chairman Bhavesh Patel and Treasurer Jagruti Panwala encouraged AAHOA Pennsylvania members to take action.
The next day, the House Republican and Democrat caucuses met to line up votes for the hotel tax hike. Due to PRLA’s hard work during that 24-hour period, there was no support to move the proposal forward.
After the defeat of the hotel tax hike, a legislator asked Melissa, “Can you please tell the AAHOA members to stop calling me now?”
What Hoteliers Can Learn from PRLA’s Victory
Based on PRLA’s example, there are three main state advocacy lessons for hoteliers:
First, relationships are key. If Melissa did not receive those phone calls, PRLA would not have been able to stop the hotel tax hike in time. It is who you know, not what you know, that counts.
Second, support your state association. Your state association provides plenty of opportunities to build relationships. Supporting your state association helps you protect your business.
Lastly, participate in your State Capitol Lobby Day. PRLA’s Legislative Day connects members with state officials. PRLA drew upon the Legislative Day relationships to defeat the hotel tax. Their next Legislative Day is on March 20, 2018. For a full State Capitol Lobby Day lineup, check AAHOA’s calendar at www.aahoa.com.
Protect Your Business – Advocate on the State Level
As Pennsylvania hoteliers learned, what happens at the state capitol directly impacts your business. State associations, such as the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, can help hoteliers become strong advocates. Investing in your state association now will save money for your business later. ■
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