Working Towards Recovery: AHLA’s Efforts in Helping Hoteliers Survive the COVID-19 Crisis

fighting coronavirus

The following column by Brian Crawford, executive vice president of government affairs at AHLA, originally appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of LODGING.

There is no doubt that the past few months have been incredibly devastating for our industry. The leisure and hospitality sector lost 7.7 million jobs in April alone—more than construction, manufacturing, retail, education, and health services combined. While some states have begun to reopen, travel is nowhere near where it once was, and will remain stunted for months to come. As hotels grapple with how to survive during these unprecedented times, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) was quick to respond from the outset.

Our team shifted into high gear and crisis mode immediately. Over the past several months, we have worked tirelessly to ensure our industry received the support it desperately needed from the president, his administration, and Congress. We have made significant progress in advocating for our hotel employees and our industry:

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  1. We secured a meeting for 10 hotel leaders with President Trump, Vice President Pence, and the virus task force in the early days of the crisis to outline the severe impact to our industry and lay the groundwork for future support.
  2. Additionally, we brought in a number of industry CFOs to meet with the Department of Treasury to discuss the impact the pandemic is having on our industry. We also met with the National Economic Council (NEC), Domestic Policy Council (DPC), the Departments of Labor and Commerce, the Small Business Administration, and leaders from both parties in Congress.
  3. We secured language in the CARES Act that allowed individual hotels to apply for loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and waived the affiliation rules to help hotels retain and rehire employees, as well as help them keep their lights on and doors open.
  4. AHLA led a coalition of more than 120 national and state associations urging lawmakers to include much-needed liability protections in the next coronavirus relief bill.
  5. With your support, we have sent nearly 150,000 letters to lawmakers on the Hill underscoring the toll COVID-19 has had on our employees and our hotels.
  6. We launched Hospitality for Hope to help more than 17,000 properties support their communities by providing rooms to first responders.
  7. In order to boost consumer confidence as travel begins again, we introduced Safe Stay, an industry-wide, enhanced standard of health and safety protocols designed to prepare America’s hotels to safely welcome back guests and employees as the economy reopens.

Through all of it, we have remained grateful to the leadership of both parties as our nation works through one of the most difficult economic challenges we have faced. The HEROES Act, which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on May 15, included a number of important provisions that the hotel industry has long advocated for to support the millions of employees in our industry who have shouldered the brunt of this economic shutdown, especially the expansion of the Employee Retention Tax Credit and several proposed Paycheck Protection Program revisions.

As this column goes to print, we remain focused on the following:

  • Ensuring the health and wellbeing of our industry’s most valuable asset—our people.
  • Advocating for programs that support the many 
hoteliers rapidly facing default on their obligations—
and ultimately helping to keep their lights on.
  • Urging lawmakers to include liability protections in addition to the extraordinary measures we have already taken to protect the safety and wellbeing of our guests and employees while following government health guidelines.

The human toll is measured in millions of jobs lost, and nearly half of all hotels remain functionally closed. We are doing everything we can to ensure those jobs aren’t lost forever. AHLA’s singular focus is serving our dedicated members. We will not stop until our industry has recovered.