|This week the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) announced the appointment of Katherine Lugar as its new president and CEO. Lugar will replace long-serving Joe McInerney beginning on April 17, and it appears that lobbying and advocacy efforts will be a top priority as she takes the helm.
“As I began to talk to the AH&LA, its membership, and search committees, it became really clear to me that what they wanted was an advocacy powerhouse,” says Luger. “So much of what I’ve done before has prepared me for this next challenge “
Lugar will be leaving her position as executive vice president of public affairs for the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) where she played a key role in helping the organization achieve legislative victories. During her time there, Lugar helped RILA fight to collect online sales tax, rally against the banks, and help members effectively deal with healthcare implementation.
But her experience with RILA is not Lugar’s only exposure to Capitol Hill. Her husband, David Lugar, the son of former Indiana senator Dick Lugar, is also a lobbyist. He previously worked at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Quinn Gillespie, where he focused primarily on the financial services and technology sectors. Two years ago, he founded his own lobbying firm, the Lugar Group, and has since signed some pretty huge clients, such as Google, Hilton Worldwide, Qualcomm, and Boeing.
Lugar explains that the retail industry and lodging industry share a lot of common ground. “There are many issues that overlap,” she says. “Whether we’re talking about labor and healthcare, trade and tax policy, or immigration. I’m really excited to take what I’ve learned and apply it.”
Given that the announcement is still fresh, Lugar is not yet opening up about a specific action plan or whether there will be staff-level shifts within the AH&LA. Although she is still learning the policies and politics of the lodging industry, Lugar says that she is eager to communicate with members and work as an organization that speaks with “one voice.”
“I think what is really clear right now is that hoteliers of all shapes and sizes have more at stake in Washington and in state capitals than ever before,” she says. “There is a major new healthcare law coming in place in ten months, challenges on the labor front, tax reform, and visa and immigration issues. These are things that we’re going to have to tackle with the right plan and approach. A big part of it is communicating with the membership, ensuring that we have a grass roots program, and engaging with hoteliers so that policy makers understand the very large footprint that this industry has in every single community.”
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