Revisiting AAHOA’s 2023 Fall National Advocacy Conference
In late October 2023, nearly 250 AAHOA Members traveled to Washington, D.C., for another annual installment of AAHOA’s Fall National Advocacy Conference (FNAC). Attendance grew by more than double when compared against 2022’s figures, and attendees enjoyed several days of conference programming while also getting the invaluable opportunity to meet in-person with more than 200 Congressional representatives and staff members. Attendees also enjoyed a networking reception where they met and mingled with a number of additional Congressional Representatives and Senators. The reception took place in the same room where Republicans had been meeting to select the newest Speaker of the House, and several attendees were able to witness the election of Speaker Mike Johnson in-person from the gallery of the House Chamber.
During the first full day of FNAC activities, participants were briefed on the latest happenings in Congress by Neal A. Patel, managing partner of Patel Partners, a government relations firm located on Capitol Hill and frequent AAHOA consultant, while also hearing from Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-TX), Rep. Richard McCormick (R-GA), and Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-MI), three of AAHOA’s foremost Congressional champions. As an industry advocate herself, Rep. Van Duyne delivered the opening keynote address, expressing her dedication to supporting pro-growth and pro-business policies that empower small-business owners and the hospitality industry at large.
Later in the day, attendees were treated to a captivating fireside chat on the America-India Relationship, featuring Ronak Desai, Of Counsel at Paul Hastings LLP, a recognized expert on Indian affairs. This conversation held particular significance for AAHOA Members, many of whom are actively working to strengthen ties between the U.S. and India, particularly in the context of the Gujarat textile industry.
UP AND RUNNING
The next morning, FNAC attendees hit the Hill bright and early and had incredibly productive meetings with representatives from their states and regions to discuss AAHOA’s top legislative priorities, which includes:
- Expanding access to capital by increasing SBA loan limit amounts from $5 million to $10 million;
- Combating excessive credit card interchange fees by passing the Credit Card Competition Act (H.R. 3881/S. 1838); and
- Addressing the labor shortage by supporting the Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Act (HR 3734) and the SEASONAL Act (S. 2705).
Many attendees, including AAHOA Members and staff, expressed a willingness to sign on as co-sponsors of AAHOA’s priority bills. Additionally, several elected officials were able to relate to the challenges facing our members as they have small business background themselves and have experienced their own frustrations dealing with the SBA prior to being elected to Congress.
Most representatives were familiar with the Credit Card Competition Act and were sympathetic to the challenges posed by the drastic increase in swipe fees from $22 billion to $160.7 billion during the past decade, and a number supported passing the Credit Card Competition Act, which would require more than one network option on which to route financial data so companies could compete over fees, security, and service, which could save members and their customers up to $15 billion a year.
The workforce shortage is an ongoing concern with which everyone is familiar, but many stakeholders left the meeting with a newfound appreciation for the impact being short-staffed has on the operations of a hotel, and understood the need to create a new H-2C visa program for immigrant workers as called for in The Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Act (HR 3734) and the SEASONAL Act (S. 2705). These pieces of legislation would allow governors more authority to request visas for their entire state or particular regions if Congress is unable to take the needed action at the federal level.
To get an up-close look at what goes on behind the scenes of hotel operations, several members of Congress volunteered to participate in AAHOA’s Back-of-the-House tours where they can visit member hotels and get a hands-on experience in the life of a hotelier. This can only help increase awareness on Capitol Hill of the dire circumstances related to the ongoing workforce shortage.
THE BEST AND BRIGHTEST
Throughout the entirety of FNAC, AAHOA Members demonstrated why they have earned a reputation in D.C. as being among the most savvy, knowledgeable, and engaged association members in the nation. After several jampacked and exciting days during which they got to witness history in the election of a new Speaker of the House, attendees returned home where they will continue to build on the relationships with their members of Congress and serve as the true voice of America’s hotel industry.
Ultimately, advocacy is an essential part of AAHOA’s mission, as the association is one of the key means through which members exercise their first amendment right to “petition the government.” It’s vital elected representatives hear from owners and operators about the impact that legislation has on their ability to pursue the American Dream.
AAHOA Members will once again reconvene in the spring for the aptly named Spring National Advocacy Conference, giving hoteliers yet another chance to connect with lawmakers who can have a meaningful and long-lasting impact on the industry. In addition, there are state advocacy days planned throughout the year. Get involved in advocacy, do your part to educate our legislators, work together to shape and protect our shared livelihoods, and take your seat at the table.
As the old saying goes, “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”