A Good Offense

Industry advocacy group can't just react, they have to go on the offensive as well By: Kenneth Shapiro
Kenneth Shapiro
Kenneth Shapiro

Perhaps it has to do with the time of year — with football season just around the corner — but I’ve been noticing a lot of sports metaphors creeping into discussions lately. The other day, at the Global Business Travel Association Convention, I was talking to Larry Luteran, senior vice president of group sales and industry relations for Hilton Worldwide, about the importance of industry advocacy groups. Luteran was telling me about a meetings advocacy group that he is involved with.

“To me, a good advocacy group has to focus on offense, not defense,” he said. “In this day and age, if you are constantly playing defense and responding to a crisis after the fact, it’s too late. You need an organization that is going to anticipate problems and head off conflicts.”

Recently, we saw an example of successful travel industry advocacy with the passage of a House bill that re-authorizes Brand USA, the organization responsible for promoting travel to the U.S. The entire travel industry benefits from Brand USA. Not only does a vibrant travel industry strengthen our economy — helping people afford their own vacations — a strong inbound travel market enhances our standing in the world and makes consumers more confident about international travel.

Unfortunately, not all the recent advocacy efforts were successful. Even while the House took a step forward with Brand USA, it took a major step backward by passing H.R. 4156, which will reverse the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) policy and make airfares less transparent to consumers. The bill seeks to overturn DOT’s full-fare advertising rule, put in place to make the total cost of a ticket more transparent. The airlines already lost a Court of Appeals ruling on this issue, so they are doing what they can to influence legislators instead.

ASTA issued a press release vowing to fight on, saying: “On behalf of the traveling public, ASTA will now redouble efforts in the Senate to fight this deceptive legislation through continued mobilization of our members, nearly 700 of whom have already written or called their legislators in opposition.”

The situation is a reminder that we all need to be active as well as vigilant — combining offense and defense — when it comes to dealing with legislative issues. Using this approach ultimately gives us the best chance to celebrate in the end zone.

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