April 24th, 2013 | David Eisen

Hotel Industry primed to persuade on the Hill

24 Apr, 2013 By: David Eisen


The hotel industry came to Washington. But unlike James Stewart, they knew their business from the get-go. 

They were there in earnest all to gain the ear of Congress on issues that deeply concern the business of running hotels. As a precursor to conversation on the Hill, many of those involved in the hotel industry gathered at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill for the American Hotel & Lodging Association's Legislative Action Summit. At the opening session, the former president and CEO of the AH&LA, Joe McInerney, was adamant about one thing: "Hotels create jobs." With 12 consecutive quarters of job growth in hospitality, it's tough to argue. However, he said, there are many regulations that make it hard for the industry to operate optimally. 

And that is where the AH&LA steps in. "We protect the industry against proposed regulations," said McInerney, whose replacement, Katherine Lugar, also welcomed the attendees, exclaiming that there is "such a great amount at stake," including immigration, sequestration, labor and health care. In closing McInerney said, "Remind law makers that the lodging industry is critical."

Some of the things the AH&LA has done has been to prevent online travel agencies from passing legislation that would give them a tax preference; rail against the change in per diems that would lower by as much as 30 percent; and defend hotels against extraordinary ADA compliance measures. 

A senior executives panel followed McInerney, consisting of Jim Abrahamson, CEO of Interstate Hotels & Resorts and secretary/treasurer of the AH&LA; Deborah Marriott Harrison, SVP, governmental affairs, Marriott International; and Paul Whetsell, president and CEO of Loews Hotels. 

The timing of the summit fell in line with the first show of real cruelty in the sequestration debate. To wit, furloughs of vital airport personnel; the effect of which has led to long delays at U.S. airports. "It's having a choking effect on travel during our busiest season," Abrahamson said. 

Marriott Harrison had her own spin on the subject. “The urgency of our issues come and go,” she said. “Sequestration keeps me up at night. It’s going to devastate our economy. We are concerned about cuts.”

A broad-based immigration solution is also needed, according to panelists. “We have dishwashers who are CEOs today,” Abrahamson said. “These jobs are the path to the middle class. We are creating careers. A responsible immigration program is this path. That's the American dream.”

Whetsell is also optimistic on immigration, and is hopeful that the Boston bombings won’t do anything to derail the effort. Loews operates the Loews Boston Back Bay, which is close to where the bombings occurred. “I hope it doesn’t delay process,” Whetsell said. “When you have that activity, the Hill's going to react. Will there be a lasting effect? I don’t think so. This immigration issue is so complex.” 

Much to Whetsell’s chagrin, turnover, at Loews’ hotels, is alarmingly high. He told the assembled crowd to tell Congress what they had to go through to recruit and keep workers. “Tell them to stand in our shoes,” he said.

Marriott Harrison implored the crowd to spin the hotel industry in a way that would connect with those in Congress, by giving it a human touch. “Tell them stories,” she said. “They don’t remember all the statistics. Go there and say ‘you aren’t hurting our CEO, you are hurting our housekeepers. You are hurting the communities. You can make a difference.” 


Topic : AH&LA, Lawmakers, Joe McInerney, Washington
External Source : Hotel Management

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