Immigration Reform and the Hotel Industry

By Michael Wildes Managing Partner, Wildes and Weinberg PC | December 06, 2015

With the 2016 presidential election in full swing, one of the main talking points for the majority of candidates is immigration reform and how to address our broken immigration system. Although politicians often focus on the arguments concerning the 11 million undocumented individuals in this country, there is little discourse on employment-based visas and the need for a massive overhaul pertaining to skilled and non-skilled workers who are the driving force of the United States economy. Recent action taken by President Obama has been helpful in addressing some of these issues, but, simply put, the only way to address this issue is for Congress to take action on our broken immigration system.

On November 20, 2014, President Barack Obama announced a series of Executive Actions in an attempt to enact reform that not only will delay deportation proceedings for nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, but also make a meaningful impact on employment-based visa programs that are so essential to the Hotel Industry. If you are a hotel manager or owner who has tried to acquire a visa for a foreign-born employee that is essential to your workforce or attempted to hire a noncitizen present here in the United States, you are aware of the difficulties that arise when dealing with our outdated immigration laws. The President's recent actions should have a meaningful impact on the industry and pave the way for future reforms that will allow Hoteliers to focus on improving their business and increasing revenues, rather than worrying about whether their hotel or lodge is properly staffed.

Deferred Action for Parenthood Accountability

One of President Obama's Executive Actions established a new program titled Deferred Action for Parenthood Accountability (DAPA). Although the program may not seem to benefit the Hotel Industry at first glance, there will be beneficial impacts that could provide assistance to hotel mangers or owners seeking to broaden their workforce. The new program would provide relief from removal for parents of U.S. citizens or green-card holders and allow them to obtain work authorization for a period of up to three years. In order to obtain this legal status, men and women must pass background checks and pay taxes that they had not paid. It is estimated that 5 million undocumented men and women would benefit from this new program, essentially flooding the work force with hard-working individuals who have been unable to secure steady or fairly paid employment and are eager to create connections with willing employers. Staffing a hotel with qualified candidates can be a daunting task but with a plethora of new possible candidates legally authorized for employment in the United States, the Hotel Industry would benefit by working diligently to attract these potential employees.

Expanding DACA to Cover Additional DREAMers

President Obama also extended relief to millions of young potential employees by expanding the previously established program titled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Under the initial DACA program, young people who had been in the U.S. for at least five years, came as children, and met specific education and public safety criteria were eligible for temporary relief from deportation so long as they were born after 1981 and entered the country before June 15, 2007. The expanded DACA allows individuals who were brought to this country as children to apply if they entered the United States before January 1, 2010, regardless of how old they are today. Going forward, DACA relief will also be granted for three years. Like DAPA, the President has created a vast group of new potential employees who are seeking careers in a fun and exciting industry. By attracting a younger workforce, Hoteliers can overcome the problem of high turnover rates that often plague the industry and fill entry-level roles that are notoriously occupied by undocumented workers. The expansion of DACA may also ease the Hotel Industry's reliance on the H-2B seasonal worker visa that can be problematic for hotels and lodges that are not exclusively reliant on seasonal business.

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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.