If you're like me, and particularly if you live in a so-called swing state, as I do, you're probably sick of the presidential election race. I'll be glad when Nov. 6 is here and passes, and we can all go back to our normal lives. That shared sentiment aside, it's important for you as a hotel owner, operator, developer or lender to pay attention to the issues and candidates in this election, and not just the two guys at the top.
The new year will bring another session of Congress and perhaps a new resident of the White House. What it also needs to bring is a clear, forceful and doable set of policies, laws and attitudes to help the tourism industry fulfill its natural role as a strong economic engine for the country. It's only been in recent years that some members of Congress and a few bureaucrats have come to realize what we all know: tourism—and particularly tourism from international visitors—produces jobs, tax revenues and related development. And in the case of foreign visitation to the U.S., tourism breaks down feelings of mistrust and hatred among people.
Yet neither presidential candidate nor party has so far presented a platform with any meaningful nod to the travel industry and its needs. Last January, President Obama announced a national tourism strategy focused on job creation. The announcement, set against the backdrop of Disney World in Orlando, was dramatic, but I've yet to see any concrete manifestation of that strategy. To its credit, the current administration has made some progress in easing the process for some people to secure visas to visit the U.S. A lot more work needs to be done.
On the other side, I've read no pronouncements from the Romney camp regarding the value of tourism and how his administration would work facilitate growth of the industry. As a Republican, however, Romney is committed to lowering the levels of all regulations on business, a development most hotel owners would welcome.
While the tops of the two tickets get all the press and attention, the real work in government happens in Congress. (Although that body has done a crappy job in leading in recent years.) As a result, you need to get to know your local candidates to learn how specifically they will promote our business once they go to Washington. Donate money to those who have concrete and sincere ideas. Work hard against those who don't.
The power of the vote is the most sacred right we have as Americans. Be sure you use your power wisely in November for your own good and the good of your business.