The second day of the 2020 RLHC Virtual Conference and Expo kicked off with insights from the leaders of two industry associations that have been fighting to support the industry through challenging times.
AAHOA Chairman Biran Patel recognized how the pandemic has affected owners, workers, brands and vendors alike. “None of us are immune to the economic fallout of COVID-19,” he said. “Hotel owners remain stuck in a liquidity crisis, with no end in sight.” AAHOA’s education and advocacy initiatives are helping owners to understand and adapt to the current landscape and to play an important part in shaping the recovery process, he added. Since the start of the pandemic, the association has developed more than 125 COVID-specific webcasts on a range of important topics for hotel owners. The webcast series, “Hotel Owners and COVID-19,” is available free to everyone in the industry, regardless of membership status.
The AAHOA team also is proud of its efforts to help hotel owners and other industry partners contribute to shaping the recovery process. “When the pandemic, hit the federal government introduced significant stimulus packages to help businesses absorb the economic impact,” Patel said. “While the Paycheck Protection Program helped owners cover some of their costs and keep employees on staff, more needs to be done to help the hotel industry with the steep declines in travel and occupancy rates.” The economic impact the pandemic is having on the hotel industry is greater than the downturn following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the 2008 financial crisis combined, he added. “AAHOA advocacy is working with our lawmakers to allow asset-based businesses to access the main-street lending program.” The association also is working with lawmakers on developing what Patel called “real relief” for owners with commercial mortgage-backed securities loans.
AHLA Looks Ahead
The American Hotel & Lodging Association shifted its focus from a range of issues to COVID-19 in late February, AHLA President and CEO Chip Rogers said: “We started advocating really early because we knew that getting out ahead of this was certainly going to help us.”
At the time, the association was successfully able to lobby for “some assistance” as occupancy went from approximately 66 percent in early February to “virtually nothing” as lockdowns started. “They were very engaged,” Rogers recalled. “There were no real politics. Everything was passing with unanimous support, and they were trying to address the problem.”
Today, of course, those funds have long since run dry, and AHLA—along with other associations including AAHOA—have called for renewed support, condemning the stalemate between the two houses of Congress. Through the estimated 50,000 members of the HotelsAct initiative, the AHLA has been able to deliver more than 200,000 messages calling for industry support to members of Congress. Rogers expressed frustration with members of Congress for leaving Capitol Hill to campaign for their own jobs while leaving other industries with massive unemployment and no stimulus package underway to help. “They will leave the nation's capital, realizing that millions of jobs could be lost, all to go preserve their own job,” he said. “That's not what I call public service—and yes that's a bold statement, and I hope that they hear this, because we love working with members of Congress and many of them are wonderful people. But please, if you're watching, if you're listening to me now and you can get this message to members of Congress—don't go home until you've finished your job.”
Rogers cautioned that “we know for certain” that labor will have “a much stronger voice at the table” if Democrats win both the White House and both houses of Congress. “We have to be prepared for that. We know the battles we have with organized labor—and we've had certainly specific battles with them in recent days that seem completely unreasonable. But they're going to have more influence in a Biden administration than they do in a Trump administration. We know that we have to be prepared for taxes. These two men have completely different views on what tax rates ought to be. So we have to be prepared for things like that.”
Earlier this week, Rogers added, he represented the AHLA at the White House. “I'm proud to say that AHLA got recognized as one of only nine companies or organizations among more than 400 that have been part of this effort by the administration to create jobs for Americans,” he said, sharing a photo of himself with Ivanka Trump and Wilbur Ross, U.S. secretary of commerce. “That was through a lot of hard work from our team, but also folks like you, that have participated in many of our workforce programs.”