Taking action

In the hospitality industry, we tend to be less involved in state or local politics or regulations until there is an issue that affects our business. As most of you know, Arizona recently made the national news with the bill SB 1062, which many believed would have allowed for discrimination of gays and lesbians based upon religious beliefs. There have been many articles, such as this one from AZ Central, that spoke about the threat and negative effects this legislation would have on the tourism industry. Ultimately, the unification of local businesses became an evident force and pertinent factor that led to the governor’s veto.

This wasn’t the first time we found ourselves in this type of situation. The Arizona hotel and tourism industry’s economy had a downturn following the controversial passage of the anti-immigration bill (SB 1070) in 2010. Following this decline, the industry rallied and changed how it operated to ensure we wouldn’t find ourselves in this position again. We united, forming alliances with local businesses and dramatically increased lobbying and media presence. For example, a Super PAC to raise and donate funds to tourism-friendly candidates was started, and relationships and good will with the legislature were developed over a period of time. When SB 1062 recently came up, we were ready. A plan was immediately put into place, which included calling the appropriate representatives to put pressure on the governor to veto the bill.

As a former chairman of the state lodging association, I know most people only react and call the association or their legislative leadership once an issue affects them; they want to engage when it is usually too late. As industry leaders, we need to be involved with all our legislative bodies to keep ahead of the curve and have the clout and relationships needed to combat issues that affect our businesses. I want to commend the Arizona tourism leadership for having a plan and the political capital in place to work with and assist the other Arizona business associations and chambers to get a veto of this bill. I urge other hoteliers to get involved now with your state and local associations to help influence the issues affecting your business. Do not expect everyone else to do the heavy lifting when you have an issue threatening your business. It’s time to take action now.