Hotel Groups Split From Newly Formed Hospitality Association
By Claudio Mendonca
Six hotel associations have decided to leave the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association and form an independent coalition to defend interests of the hotel industry.
Representatives of the coalition are to meet Nov. 7 with legislators in Tallahassee. In December, the coalition will meet in Miami for the first time.
The hotel group is breaking away because it believes its goals differ from those of the restaurant industry. The Greater Miami & the Beaches Hotel Association, the Fort Lauderdale Lodging & Hospitality Association, the Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association, the Hotel Motel Association of Daytona-Volusia County, the Palm Beach County Lodging Association and the Tampa Convention & Visitors Association are forming the new coalition.
"Eighty percent of the members in the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association are restaurants," said Stuart Blumberg, president of the Miami hotel association. "Representatives in the industry needed to make sure that when we go to Tallahassee, we have a voice and not express our concerns through a restaurant association."
The 92-year-old Florida Lodging Association, suffering financial problems, merged with the Florida Restaurant Association earlier this month to form the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.
"We did not have the same agenda as the restaurant association, and we were giving up an independent hotel voice in Tallahassee," Mr. Blumberg said. "Now I believe we are on the right track."
The six organizations represent 140,000 rooms, 500 hotels and 300,000 employees.
Florida had 5.2 million more visitors last year than in 2003. Hospitality and tourism account for 20% of the state’s economy, generating $3.4 billion in state sales taxes and a $57 billion economic impact. The hospitality industry employs 912,700 Floridians directly, making it the state’s largest employer group.
One of the first tasks of the new coalition, Mr. Blumberg said, is to push back the start of the school year to at least the end of August.
"Schools are scheduled to start Aug. 1 in 2006," he said. "Hotels, especially the ones in Orlando, are losing a whole month of business."
In August, while Miami hotels were having their best summer, 20% above projections, Orlando hotels’ business was down.
"A lot of people blamed that on this year’s hurricanes," Mr. Blumberg said, "but the reality is that Orlando lost a lot of business because schools are starting too early."