Building relationships with lawmakers

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RACHEL HUMPHREY
AAHOA Interim President & CEO

AAHOA Members are experienced relationship builders. Getting a business off the ground and maintaining it through the years requires hoteliers to create a network of reliable brand partners, vendors, and contractors. These connections enable our members to grow their portfolios and expand their business initiatives, but hoteliers shouldn’t narrow their focus to only industry insiders. It’s just as important to build relationships outside of the industry, especially with lawmakers whose decisions directly impact the business environment in their local area.

Many Americans, including small business owners, assume once their legislators are elected, they have no way to influence their policy positions. This isn’t the case. Constituents are the lifeblood of every elected official, and their opinions can affect policy as long as they engage with lawmakers to help them understand the real impact of certain legislation. In this way, AAHOA Members are an exceptionally unique and valuable constituency. It’s important to remember that lawmakers are not experts in every policy area and as small business owners, job creators, and economic contributors, hoteliers can offer officials an informed perspective on a range of issues.

The most effective way for hoteliers to form relationships is by addressing the issues that are most important through real-life stories. When it comes time to support or oppose making the small business tax cuts permanent, legislators will remember the hotel owner in their district who reinvested their tax savings back into their business by hiring new employees, raising wages, and expanding. They will remember the hotelier from their hometown who is concerned about the future of the franchise model because of an unclear joint-employer standard. Fostering relationships with lawmakers humanizes issues that are too often overshadowed by partisanship.

Whether at the local, state, or federal level, your business and all hoteliers benefit from increased representation of the hotel industry. Highlighting AAHOA’s efforts on human trafficking prevention, for example, can directly impact the way legislators perceive the role of hotels in human trafficking cases. Many state legislatures are currently considering holding hotels liable if a trafficker uses the premises to move or exploit victims. In reality, hoteliers are working hard to combat trafficking in every way they can, including completing AAHOA’s awareness training offered through our partnerships with Businesses Ending Slavery & Trafficking (BEST) and Polaris. Instead of working separately to achieve the same goal, hoteliers can bridge this gap and show state officials that our industry can be a resource for them in their efforts to bring trafficking to an end.

I encourage every AAHOA Member to start engaging with their elected officials if they haven’t already. AAHOA offers several opportunities for members throughout the year to make this possible. In March, nearly 200 hoteliers convened in Washington D.C. for AAHOA’s Spring National Advocacy Conference (SNAC), where members met one on one with members of Congress and their staffs to talk about our most important issues. Along with state Lobby Days that take place during the year, the next opportunity for members to come speak with legislators is at the 2019 Legislative Action Summit this fall. Your actions can make a real difference in policy decisions that affect America’s hoteliers and the future of our industry. Be sure to reach out to AAHOA’s advocacy team for more information on how you can get involved.

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