AHLA, AAHOA partner to create new advocacy alliance

The nation’s two largest hotel groups—AAHOA and the American Hotel & Lodging Association—launched the American Hospitality Alliance at the International Society of Hotel Associations’ summer meeting in Boston this week. 

The AHA aims to promote the hospitality industry at state and local levels through advocacy and political engagement, with the two associations working alongside local hospitality bureaus. Cmopanies like Marriott International, Hilton and IHG Hotels & Resorts will be represented on the AHA's advisory board.

The alliance started to take shape more than a year ago, AHLA President and CEO Chip Rogers said. “Everyone saw the obvious need for being more engaged at the state and local level,” he said. AAHOA has a history of supporting local advocacy—“in fact, I was the person who put that in place when I was there,” the association’s former president and CEO noted—and AHLA also has been promoting local support. “It only made sense to bring everybody together and to work with our state partners to do this in a more coordinated way.” 

Ken Greene, AAHOA's interim president and CEO, said he wants to drive change at a grassroots level. “Many times it's the most impactful at that level,” he said. Greene said he sees the alliance as a coordinated effort to drive positive change, supporting the industry through collaboration. 

The partnership of AAHOA, the AHLA and state hospitality associations will encourage pooling resources and sharing best practices to educate lawmakers at the state and local level about the value of hospitality and the needs of hoteliers. Those resources will range from financial to personnel. “We're going to be able to allocate money where there are problems or challenges the industry is facing,” Rogers said. In terms of human resources, the AHLA has “a number” of lobbyists the association hires at the state and local level—“as does AAHOA, and as do many of the brands,” he noted—and these lobbyists will be able to campaign for crucial issues and lobby for the industry. “Being able to coordinate all of those efforts and ... hire the right people collectively to represent the industry [means] that we'll be able to spread our resources further.” 

Local Support

While the AHLA is a well-known association on Capitol Hill, the organization and its message are not as familiar in all 50 states. “Being able to support our partner state associations with additional resources when they need it is going to make a big difference,” Rogers said.

More than 40 leaders of state hospitality associations have joined the alliance already, Rogers added, noting that not all states have dedicated hospitality associations: “We already independently work with them, but being able to do so in a more coordinated way through this alliance is just going to make us more effective.” 

As the alliance grows and develops, Greene said, members will be able to submit ideas and initiatives and calculate what resources would be needed to accomplish these goals. “And then the advisory board reviews it and either accepts or changes or rejects the ideas,” he said, noting the team will keep the primary priorities in place. “We're all working—rolling up our sleeves and working collaboratively to do the right thing for the industry at the grassroots level.”

Weathering the Storm

A prime focus of the AHA will be on getting American Rescue Plan funds that were sent to the state and local governments directly to the hotels that need the money. The AHLA’s efforts to allocate ARP funds have already been successful in Virginia at the county level, Rogers said. “We want to see that happen all across the country ... It's a long process because there are 50 states and thousands of counties, but we're making our way through it and helping where we can," he said. Rogers also expects the AHA to take on illegal short-term rentals and organized labor ordinances “that don't make sense.”

Greene, in turn, expects to fight over COVID-19 liability concerns at the state level, and to address “drive-by lawsuits,” particularly those related to the Americans with Disabilities Act. “Some are real, but there are a number of frivolous lawsuits that are filed every day in many states,” he said. The AHA also will examine tax reform issues that relate to the hotel industry, he said, pointing out 1031 exchanges as a popular way for hoteliers to grow their portfolios. 

Two or three years down the road, Greene expects to see the AHA moving a number of industry issues forward at a faster pace. “The idea is to accelerate the advocacy efforts that we've all been doing [but maybe were doing] in a fragmented way and not necessarily always in a coordinated way,” he said. “We can start to accelerate, getting positive change to happen.”


The AHLA and AAHOA will co-chair AHA, and an advisory board of 17 industry representatives and staff serving one-year terms will oversee the organization's priorities and policy initiatives. According to  the formal agreement between the organizations, the current CEOs of both will helm the new alliance. “We're counting on that being the leadership moving forward,” Rogers said.

Future partnerships like that of the AHLA and Unite Here also are a possibility, he added. “We're always on the lookout to partner with anybody that wants to help our industry," Rogers said. "When there are opportunities, we're always at the table, listening and looking for more.” Greene agreed: “There [has been] a mutual alignment in our interests in fighting those battles and so if there's a partnership out there that makes sense for us, we would always consider that.”

While the two industry heavyweights are working closely together, Rogers does not expect to see them formally unite under a single banner any time soon. “There are unique characteristics about each organization that I think are good to stand on their own,” he said. “I don't think they're going to be merging, but we will look for every opportunity to work together.” One of those opportunities likely will be in the field of education, he added. “But right now our main focus is on advocacy and that's at the federal level, the state and local level with the new alliance.”