Four key advocacy issues in AAHOA’s sights

AAHOA is coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic roaring on the advocacy front. You’re seeing a new commitment from Chairman Bharat Patel and President & CEO Laura Lee Blake toward state and federal advocacy. From hosting two annual Capitol Hill fly-ins (one in the spring and another in the fall) to having members of Congress attend AAHOA Regionals and Town Halls to hosting back-of-the-house tours with elected officials, AAHOA is utilizing its strongest asset – its membership – to advocate for itself. This industry affects every single congressional district and every state in the nation, so it’s imperative AAHOA has a seat at the table on key issues facing the industry. The federal advocacy efforts in the past year have put a focus on developing relationships with elected officials and AAHOA Members directly.

Here are four key areas where AAHOA is focusing its advocacy efforts in the near- and long-term future.

On the legislative front, access to capital remains one of the strongest issues we are pursuing for AAHOA Members. Why is that? Simply put, our members face the same issue with it every day, no matter the geography or brand of the hotel. The Small Business Association (SBA) program allows many hoteliers to enter the industry. We want to see it continue serving in that role. That’s why AAHOA is advocating for an increase in the maximum loan amount for the SBA 7(a) program. Currently, the maximum amount for an SBA 7 (a) loan is $5 million. That amount was set 13 years ago. As many AAHOA Members can attest, that amount of money had a much stronger purchasing power in 2010 than it does today. We are seeking bipartisan support to have that maximum loan amount reflect what today’s market rates dictate, which is closer to $10-15 million.

Another issue the industry is facing involves the labor shortage. As the effects of the pandemic subside, the industry continues to suffer from a worker shortage north of 1 million jobs. AAHOA is actively involved on multiple fronts regarding this matter. Legislatively, AAHOA is supportive of legislation like that offered by Congressman Lloyd Smucker (R-PA), H.R. 3734 – the Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Act. The bill aims to fill jobs with a new classification H-2C nonimmigrant visa program for seasonal workers. AAHOA engaged early with Rep. Smucker’s office and made the legislation a hallmark of our advocacy efforts earlier this year. The bill gained enough support to be introduced in a bipartisan manner.

None of this is to say that matters surrounding fair franchising, OTAs, fighting for an increase in per diem rates, protecting 1031 exchanges, or combatting human trafficking are any less important. AAHOA is advocating for those as well. This year in Washington, AAHOA has focused on joining forces with like-minded groups to amplify its voice. For example, AAHOA joined the Merchants Payments Coalition in an effort to provide an industry presence to combat increases in swipe fees from credit cards. (For more info on this partnership, see the feature article on p14). AAHOA also is taking a more active role within the Critical Labor Coalition to bring the viewpoint of hotel owners to the forefront.

Another aspect AAHOA focuses on is its interactions with elected officials in Washington. During the official state visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June, AAHOA leadership was invited by the White House to attend the welcoming ceremony on the White House South Lawn. Later in the day, AAHOA leadership was in attendance on Capitol Hill during Prime Minister Modi’s joint meeting with Congress as guests of Members of Congress. Of note, in May, Chairman Patel and President & CEO Blake wrote to congressional leaders encouraging them to extend the opportunity to the Prime Minister. And they listened. AAHOA’s presence is being felt in Washington and at home.

Neal A. Patel is the managing partner of Patel Partners, a government relations firm located on Capitol Hill, and he can be reached at .


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