Partnering with purpose


The collective power of advocacy

Independent hoteliers frequently question the value of engaging with advocacy groups, debating whether their involvement can yield significant impact or if it’s a worthwhile endeavor. Historically, political advocacy in the hospitality industry predominantly aligned with branded hotels or franchisees, requiring substantial investments of time and money to influence policy agendas. Despite this, the influence of advocacy extends beyond these groups and resonates throughout the entire hospitality industry.

The interconnected nature of policies and regulations means changes in one sector can widely affect every aspect of the industry. Independent hoteliers’ participation in advocacy groups can amplify their collective voice, fostering a more inclusive and diverse representation of the industry’s concerns. While the immediate impact might appear limited, cumulative efforts can shape a more favorable business environment, level the competitive playing field, and advance shared goals.

The recent pandemic unleashed a tumultuous wave of challenges upon hoteliers nationwide. Among these difficulties, rising expenses, workforce shortages, elevated interest rates, reduced property insurance options, and escalating minimum wages stand out. These concerns resonate not only within the realm of branded hotels but also deeply affect independent hoteliers. Recognizing the imperative to safeguard one’s livelihood, advocating is an essential course of action.

Advocacy addresses imbalances between independent properties and larger hotel chains, the latter of which often have more resources and influence. But, independent hoteliers need to understand that standing united, starting at local political level, and voicing concerns collectively gives a stronger voice in shaping policies and regulations that directly affect the businesses. It’s vital to understand change starts at the grassroots level. It’s crucial to stay active in the local community and engage with local district representatives to make – and keep – them aware of the issues. Independent hoteliers may lack the resources and support networks that larger hotel chains enjoy, but there’s always a way to connect locally, one independent hotelier at a time.

As recounted in numerous places throughout this issue of Today’s Hotelier, AAHOA has undertaken a significant endeavor to foster greater advocacy engagement in recent years, establishing a platform that unites not just branded hoteliers, but also independent ones into a cohesive community. Recognizing the pivotal role played by independent hoteliers in the U.S. market, AAHOA has championed this collective effort.

A noteworthy illustration of their impact lies in certain California cities grappling with the proposition of raising the minimum wage for hospitality workers to $25 per hour. While this might have a relatively smaller impact on larger brand hotels, it could have profoundly affected small independent and limited-service hotels. Through the efforts of AAHOA Members, who rallied together at numerous city council meetings and hearings, the proposed ordinance was not enacted, but rather held for further industry evaluation, considering the voiced concerns. This stands as a testament to how independent hoteliers can wield influence by participating in advocacy. Collectively, they can shape decisions concerning taxation, zoning, labor laws, and other regulatory aspects that directly influence their businesses.

AAHOA’s initiatives extend to Small Business Administration loan policies, a critical program for independent hoteliers to secure financing for purchasing hospitality assets. Particularly amid recent inflation and property valuation fluctuations, accessing financing has become an increasingly challenging facet of hotel acquisition. These efforts aren’t merely impactful for branded hotels, but they hold particular significance for independent hoteliers, underscoring AAHOA’s commitment to representing and advocating for the diverse interests of the hospitality industry.

It’s plausible to consider that a significant portion of the U.S. hospitality market is indeed occupied by independent hoteliers. This assumption grows in possibility as more owners seek complete autonomy over their hotels and its management, moving away from franchise’s strict control. Owners increasingly want to prioritize maintaining the individuality and control of their hotels which often mirror the culture and ethos of their surroundings, offering guests an authentic and personalized experience that sets them apart from standardized chain hotels.

Participating in platforms like AAHOA for political advocacy is crucial for independent hoteliers. Such efforts impact the entire industry, shaping policies that influence taxes, labor laws, and regulations. While immediate effects might seem small, collective advocacy yields lasting results and benefiting all hotels. Independent hoteliers can assert their unique perspectives and address issues that directly impact their businesses. They stand to reap not only the benefits of their voices being acknowledged but also play a pivotal role in cultivating a cohesive community within the hospitality industry. By asserting their concerns, they can contribute to a more equitable environment where the need to “level” the playing field becomes less imperative.

vijal suthar

Vijal Suthar is an independent hotelier specializing in boutique hospitality assets throughout Central and Southern California. An AAHOA Ambassador, she actively participates in advocacy for hoteliers across the nation. She is currently pursuing an executive MBA from Harvard while working as a West Coast associate for GRP Capital, offering competitive commercial real estate loan products through a chain of banking and non-banking networks.


Comments are closed.