AAHOA’s Spring National Advocacy Conference brings together lawmakers and 200+ AAHOA Members strongly advocating for the hospitality industry
In March, hundreds of AAHOA Members and leaders from across the U.S. flew into Washington, D.C., for AAHOA’s Spring National Advocacy Conference (SNAC) to discuss critical issues impacting America’s hotel owners.
The advocacy event kicked off on Tuesday, March 7, with the “Hail to the Chiefs” panel, where Kirtan Mehta, Chief of Staff to Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO), and Shil Patel, Chief of Staff to Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), discussed the significant role that chiefs of staff play in the legislative process and the importance of creating relationships with these key players. Mehta and Patel also emphasized that everything starts at the local level and encouraged SNAC attendees to create relationships where it matters most: in their local community.
After the panel discussion, U.S. Representative Dr. Richard McCormick (R-GA), who has a unique background as a Marine helicopter pilot and emergency room doctor, took the stage to speak to AAHOA Members and leaders. He commented on the work of AAHOA’s entrepreneurs, and their success and backgrounds, saying, “One thing we don’t want to do in America is punish successful people.”
The advocacy event also ensured to motivate and empower the women hoteliers in attendance. The “HerOwnership on the Hill” panel welcomed the House Democratic Caucus Executive Director Sonali Desai, Former Women Hoteliers Director Eastern Division Lina Patel (2017-2023), and Women Hoteliers Director Western Division Tejal Patel on stage for an engaging conversation on women in leadership, entrepreneurship, and Desai’s path to success.
The first day concluded with the Congressional Reception in the Senate Hart Building where AAHOA welcomed several Members of Congress (MOCs) to attend and make remarks to attendees. From U.S. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) to U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), and many others, AAHOA Members were immeasurably grateful for the time these representatives took out of their packed schedules to educate and encourage greater involvement in advocacy and the legislative process.
AAHOA’s advocacy continued on Wednesday, March 8, on Capitol Hill. The SNAC Delegation held more than 200 meetings with MOCs and their staffs. AAHOA Members focused on obtaining greater access to capital and addressing the severe labor shortages plaguing the industry. AAHOA leaders helped expand lawmakers’ knowledge around the importance of hotels to their communities and the economy at large.
Political affiliations aside, those in attendance were representing the interests and issues that are important to America’s hoteliers and the broader travel and hospitality industry.
During the two-day advocacy event, AAHOA Members urged Congress to support the following four issues.
1 PROMOTE ACCESS TO CAPITAL BY INCREASING SBA LOAN CAPS/LIMITS
- SBA 7(a) and 504 Loan Limits to $10 Million: Obtaining access to capital is a critical factor for small businesses to operate and thrive in a challenging economy. Currently, Small Business Administration (SBA) 7(a) and 504 loans are capped at $5 million, which was last set in 2010. For hoteliers, the costs of constructing and purchasing properties have skyrocketed during the past decade.
2 PERMANENTLY EXPAND THE EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT (EITC)
- Business owners across the country face critical labor shortages. Earned income tax credit (EITC) improvements affecting workers without children that expired at the end of 2021 should be made permanent.
3 ADDRESS THE INDUSTRY’S LABOR SHORTAGE BY SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASING THE NUMBER OF H-2B VISAS AND CREATING A NEW H-2C VISA.
- Address the Hospitality Labor Shortage with H-2B visas: The unemployment rate in the leisure and hospitality sector is 5.2%, which is 36% higher than the 3.6% overall unemployment rate for the country, according to the latest February 2023 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- The Biden Administration announced its expansion of an additional 64,000 temporary nonagricultural worker H-2B visas for FY 2023. This is in addition to the 66,000 H-2B visas that are normally available each year. However, the total number of available visas does not come close to the estimated 1.5 million open jobs in the industry.
- AAHOA seeks for Congress to: Eliminate caps on the H-2B visa program altogether so there are no constraints on addressing employers’ needs for additional seasonal workers. Also, if an already-approved worker is brought back, they shouldn’t be counted against the cap of a new visa.
- Allow these visas to be valid for multiple years, so businesses don’t have to undergo the onerous filing process every year.
4 COSPONSOR THE ESSENTIAL WORKERS FOR ECONOMIC ADVANCEMENT ACT
- The Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Act (EWEA) would help business owners address the critical labor shortage by filling a need currently unaddressed in the U.S. immigration system.
- The EWEA creates an H-2C visa program for nonimmigrant, nonagricultural service workers. It’s intended for small businesses in industries with lower educational thresholds and comparatively low sales per employee.
AAHOA further offers numerous opportunities for elected officials to utilize and learn about the needs of AAHOA Members and to speak directly with key constituents back home. These include attending regional conference meetings and speaking at AAHOA town halls, as well as participating in interviews with Today’s Hotelier, AAHOA’s monthly magazine distributed to 20,000 Hoteliers.
Click here to learn more about AAHOA’s policy priorities and issues advocated for at the 2023 AAHOA SNAC.