Lost Our Voice Before We Had It

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Many in the hospitality industry were hopeful that Barack Obama's election would finally give us a strong and knowledgeable voice in Washington. The hope was that President-Elect Obama would nominate Penny Pritzker to be Secretary of Commerce. The 49-year-old Pritzker was Obama's chief fundraiser and, of course, is one of three cousins who run the vast Pritzker business empire, of which Hyatt Hotels is the centerpiece.

That hope was dashed yesterday as Penny said she wouldn't pursue the job. It's a shame, because even though she is more involved in the family's senior residence business, she sits on the board of Global Hyatt Corp. and, as a Pritzker, probably has strong sentimental ties to the hotel business, which put her family on the map and contributed to its combined wealth pegged at something north of $15 billion. As Commerce Secretary, she would be the hotel industry's inside person, someone who understood and could act on some of the issues that matter most to the industry. Who knows, she may have even been able to establish a credible federally funded marketing program to attract international visitors to the U.S.

Well, I guess you can't lose something you never had.

As an aside, it's interesting to note that had Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination and the election, the word was that Loews chief Jonathan Tisch was in line to get the Commerce spot. That would have been even better for the tourism industry as he is its chief cheerleader and salesman.

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