More than 300 travel and tourism professionals from 45 states paid hundreds of visits to U.S. senators and representatives—covering more than half of Congress—during Destination: Capitol Hill last week in Washington, D.C. This legislative fly-in, organized by the U.S. Travel Association along with NTA, the Southeast Tourism Society and the Destination Marketing Association International, combined advocacy with education.
“What a fabulous event in the nation’s capital,” said Tom Jaffa of Jaffa Travel & Receptive Services in Seattle, who chairs the NTA Government Relations Committee. “In my nearly 20 years of congressional visits on behalf of NTA and our industry, this was one of the best set of visits I have experienced. Our team visited with every Washington state congressional office, and we are already seeing results.”
DMAI board chair Greg Edwards also rated the two-day event a success. “Destination: Capitol Hill really showed unity from all travel partners, including corporate, destination marketing organizations, travel-related associations and state tourism offices,” said Edwards, who also serves as president of the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau. “I believe we made solid points about the opportunities to strengthen the U.S. travel industry.”
Prior to visiting legislators, 100-plus NTA members participated in educational sessions with elected officials, leaders from federal agencies and tourism associations, and seasoned lobbyists, all discussing tourism issues. The sessions prepared participants for meetings with their senators and representatives, said Patti Culp, executive director of the Alabama Travel Council and recipient of NTA’s James D. Santini Award for long-term commitment to advocacy.
“Our congressional leaders learned from us the issues we support,” said Culp. “We encouraged them to ramp up their involvement in the implementation of crucial measures.”
NTA’s legislative priorities center on ways to increase tourism by easing restrictions on international travelers, continuing U.S.-inbound marketing efforts and improving the nation’s transportation infrastructure.
While in Washington, several NTA tour operators and leaders joined with the United Motorcoach Association and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for a Motorcoach Safety Roundtable. “Our session led to several initiatives that will help FMCSA educate tour operators and make motorcoach transportation safer, which is NTA’s focus,” said Lisa Simon, NTA president. “We look forward to working further with FMCSA and UMA to develop and promote these ideas.”