GANYC was the only organization representing New York City tourism professionals and the NYC tourism industry as a whole at the US Travel Association’s (USTA) Destination Capitol Hill 2016 lobbying event in Washington, D.C. March 16-17. GANYC President Michael Dillinger and Lee Gelber, who serves on the GANYC Government Relations Committee, met with Congressional officials and other key travel leaders to advocate in support of travel via legislation and other initiatives because of its importance as an economic driver.
Destination Capitol Hill brings travel professionals from across the country to Washington, D.C., to educate policymakers about the power of travel. The program combines a legislative day on Capitol Hill with advocacy training, guest speakers and peer-to-peer networking. DCH provides delegates with an opportunity to learn about upcoming legislation that impacts travel, network with peers and meet with members of Congress to stress the importance of travel as an economic driver.
GANYC President Dillinger reported that he and Gelber enjoyed several productive meetings with Congressional staffers as well as other tourism leaders.
“We became the face and voice for the travel industry in our city,” Dillinger explained. “I think this was a very good beginning for GANYC and, over time, this will bring us great dividends. Even the handful of people we were able to meet are now aware GANYC. As industry professionals, they do have interactions with people across the country so someone here in New York City may even hear our name from another part of the country. “
GANYC’s upcoming bid to host the 2019 WFTGA convention in New York was a topic discussed with several attendees, including Aaron Wodin-Schwartz, Director of Public Policy for Brand USA, which heads up the nation’s global marketing effort to promote the US as a premier travel destination.
Dillinger and Gelber joined Dr. Kristin M. Lamoureux, Associate Dean of the Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism at NYU, along with tourism representatives from Suffolk County on Long Island, and Erie and Niagara counties from Upstate New York, in meeting with staff from the offices of Senators Kirstin Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, while GANYC and Dr. Lamoureux met exclusively with staff from the offices of Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler.
GANYC’s representatives were involved in high-level discussions about several key issues related to the tourism industry. Dillinger stressed that as the ground troops for tourism in the country’s largest tourism market, GANYC should be a resource when issues related to travel and tourism came up, and the association is happy to assist in any way possible. Among the major topics discussed were:
· Retaining and expanding the Visa Waiver Program, which allows for greater security while providing travel opportunities for foreign visitors to the U.S.
· Air Travel Modernization, especially upgrading the nation’s airports.
· Requesting that lawmakers to work with travel professionals when responding to crisis so travel is not adversely affected by broad restrictions when precise, targeted responses would be more effective.
· Advocating for the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation” Act -- the FAST Act in order to shore up our nation’s aging infrastructure.
· Encouraging New York’s legislators to be involved in the House and Senate Travel and Tourism Caucuses.
In addition, the GANYC coalition enjoyed productive meetings with other key players in travel. Andrew Eisner, vice president of Scripps Networks (owners of the Travel Channel and Food Network), was very interested in GANYC’s operations, and also was curious about New York’s food tour scene.
Licensing and certification of tour guides was a major topic with Barbara Newton, president and CEO of the California Travel Association.