HB ON THE SCENE: Hoteliers Lobby Congress on Hospitality Issues

WASHINGTON—Hoteliers from across the country came together here this week to meet with members of Congress to discuss issues affecting the hospitality industry.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) hosted the 2019 Legislative Action Summit at the Capital Hilton to provide a unified voice to the nation’s legislators.

Jagruti Panwala, AAHOA chairwoman and president/CEO, Wealth Protection Strategies Inc., and Jon Bortz, AHLA vice chair/chairman and president/CEO, Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, spoke of the importance of the hotel industry to the economy.

“The size and the reach of the lodging industry and the outlook for our future tell a compelling story,” said Panwala. “As an industry, we mine the American dreams. Our businesses are pillars of the American community. Our iconic buildings and brands are universally recognized across the nation.”

Three main issues were on the minds of those in attendance and among the topics that were discussed with lawmakers: the reauthorization of Brand USA; congressional action on online booking scams; and empowering localities to combat illegal hotels that advertise on short-term rental platforms.

Renew Brand USA and Promote International Travel

Hoteliers called on Congress to reauthorize the Brand USA program, which promotes tourism to the U.S. from international visitors, before it ends in 2020. “Since FY 2013, Brand USA has added $47.7 billion to the U.S. economy,” said Mike Fullerton, senior director of public policy, Brand USA. “For every $1 spent on marketing, it returns an average of $25 to the U.S. economy, and it doesn’t cost taxpayers anything.”

Protect Consumers from Online Booking Scams

Attendees also encouraged legislators to enact legislation that will combat some three-party online booking companies from scamming consumers by mimicking real hotel websites to steal personal and financial information.

Ensure Local Authority of Short-Term Rentals

Under Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, internet platforms are provided with broad immunity from liability for third-party content posted on their websites. AHLA and AAHOA report that short-term rental companies like Airbnb and HomeAway have used Section 230 to avoid local regulations. The two association are calling for Congress to enact the Protecting Local Authority and Neighborhoods (PLAN) Act to allow state and local governments to pass laws and regulations addressing short-term rentals.

For more on the Legislative Action Summit, see the Oct. 15th issue of Hotel Business.