When it has the resolve, the lodging industry can get a lot accomplished. A good recent example involves the dust-up surrounding Arizona's controversial new immigration enforcement law. The knee-jerk reaction by many opposed to the law was a call for a boycott of the state's meetings and tourism industry. Of course, what was lost in the rhetoric is the fact that it's hard-working people in the state's hospitality industry who would be unfairly penalized should such a movement gain strength.
But to its credit, many sectors of the hospitality industry, with lodging at the lead, stepped forward to pressure those advocating a boycott to reconsider their actions. The AH&LA, for example, sent a stern letter to the Washington, DC city council as it was gearing up to join the boycott. While action by the council is still possible, the measure has been tabled for the time being.
Even more interesting is the stand taken by the Asian American Hotel Owners Association. While it also quickly made a public case against a boycott, I've got to imagine some AAHOA members are at least a little ambivalent over the whole issue. After all, AAHOA was created in the late 1980s to fight the prejudice and discrimination Asian-Indian entrepreneurs felt as they tried to create their version of the American dream. On one hand, they have a financial stake in Arizona's tourism business (AAHOA says its members own 40 percent of the state's 1,100 lodging properties), yet on some level they must feel empathy for immigrants, even illegal ones, as they try to succeed, or at least survive, in their new homeland.
The larger point, however, is the power the U.S. lodging industry can wield if it has a clear-cut objective and marshals its forces in a rational, yet passionate way. I hope this spirit of activism can be tapped again as other key issues threaten the hotel and tourism industries.