Startup Stories: Iowa Hotel & Lodging Association

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Starting point. Iowa previously had a state-level hotel association, but the pandemic caused that organization to shut down, said Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association and the new Iowa Hotel & Lodging Association (IHLA). Without association, hotels could not advocate for funding programs to help them through the toughest times of the pandemic, or prevent a new hotel tax whose proceeds do not support the hotel, tourism or hospitality industries of the country. ‘State.

“COVID has really revealed that you need to have a strong, unified voice in whatever type of organization or industry you’re in,” Dunker said. “The hotels, exactly when they really needed it, their association folded. That’s why we started.

Members of the Iowa Restaurant Association who operated inside the hotels would tell Dunker about the problems the hotels were facing and that they were seeking help. So, the catering group decided to establish IHLA and serve as its management organization. IHLA has its own Board of Directors.

“The reason we considered doing this was because members of both industries asked us to consider it because they needed that unified advocacy voice,” Dunker said. Although some states have hotel associations that service both restaurants and hotels, Dunker said they chose to create a separate group because “we needed to have dedicated boards of directors for hospitality issues. a specific sector”.

First works. IHLA’s primary goal is to educate hotels on important issues. For example, the legislature passed an initiative that provides free training to hotel staff on how to prevent human trafficking. The state has also banned employees from hosting meetings or staying in hotels that have not completed the training.

“Hotels didn’t have an advocacy organization to spread this news, so when this legislation came into effect in January, not even a quarter of hotels understood they needed to take this training,” Dunker said. “One of the first things we did was get the information out to people: Here’s the training. It’s free. You need to get all of your employees to do this. This is where you will certify your hotel on the state website.

IHLA is also seeking to identify state pandemic recovery resources that may still be available to its members.

Next steps. IHLA’s primary goals for 2022 are to grow membership and become the go-to voice for the Iowa hospitality industry.

“When an issue, whether city or state, arises that has a financial or operational impact on a hotel or accommodation, we would like to be the first call to be made,” said Dunking. “We want to be at the forefront of the language of people who are not necessarily in the industry, but able to make decisions that can positively or negatively impact our business at any time. If we can do that, we will have accomplished a lot.

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