Attractions Industry Advocates for Cultural Exchange

By: Renee Clarke, Work and Travel Senior Employer Relations Manager, Greenheart Exchange

As an active member of the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions (IAAPA), Greenheart Exchange staff participated in IAAPA U.S. Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C. This annual event is an opportunity to communicate with key policymakers about the pressing issues affecting the attractions industry. Greenheart Exchange was one of 33 IAAPA members that attended this year’s event. Participants engaged in meetings with 58 congressional offices representing 13 states.

The event was well organized and coordinated, bringing together a diverse group of professionals spanning suppliers, amusement and water park leadership, regional amusement associations, lawyers specializing in servicing the industry, Family Entertainment Center (FEC) owners, ride developers, and one designated J-1 visa sponsor (us!). Greenheart Exchange was very excited to represent the J-1 visa sponsor community as each of the meetings included conversations regarding the J-1 Summer Work Travel program.

Together we focused conversations with lawmakers on four pressing issues affecting the attractions industry. All members were trained on the issues, briefed on the congressional legislative and political outlook, and given tools to build effective conversations and engagement with the legislators. Between preparation sessions and networking events, the team was ready to have effective conversations with members of both the House and Senate.

What We Talked About

J-1 Summer Work Travel program

The attractions industry has been a long time partner of the J-1 Summer Work Travel program (SWT) and the cultural exchange opportunity it provides. SWT participants represent a small, but important, supplement to the industry’s seasonal workforce.

During meetings, we asked legislators to oppose rules or legislation that may hurt the program and seasonal businesses. IAAPA supports the continuation of the J-1 Summer Work Travel program and the utilization of a transparent process in cooperation with Congress, should any substantial governmental changes regarding the SWT program appear.

Federal Oversight over Fixed-Site Rides

In both houses of Congress, we highlighted that the attractions industry has an excellent safety record and is one of the safest forms of recreation. Safety continues to be the number one priority for IAAPA and its members.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) [Drones]

Although drones are safely utilized across the amusement industry for specified safety checks and creation of promotional materials, privately owned drones are being flown into amusement parks, sometimes in close proximity to attractions facilities. These instances present significant safety hazards.

In our meetings, we asked legislators to urge the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to publish guidelines establishing a process for concerned parties to petition the FAA.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Compliance

Enacted in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires that facilities and businesses that are open to the public are also accessible for people with disabilities. IAAPA member companies have worked extensively to develop workable means of access to rides and attractions.

In February 2018, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act. This bill regulates that property owners are provided reasonable notice about alleged ADA violations and given a specified timeline to fix the problem. During our meetings, we thanked members who supported H.R. 620 and we urged our Senators to take up H.R. 620, or similar legislation, in order to help prevent unnecessary legal battles and ensure accessibility.

Meeting Recap

Greenheart staff partnered with a major amusement park in the state and a Legislative Analyst. We met with the following IL offices and shared our requests.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)

Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)

Representative Danny K. Davis (D-IL 7th District)

Representative Randy Hultgren (R-IL14th District)

By customizing our approach to each legislator’s interests and publicized position on the above issues, we were able to conduct very successful meetings! Overall, there was a theme of understanding and support for cultural exchanges and the Summer Work Travel program. We invited legislators, staffers, and their local teams to visit the amusement park. We also invited them to join us in any upcoming volunteer projects planned in Illinois so they could have the chance to meet Summer Work Travel participants integrating into their host communities and embracing the cultural benefits of the program.

You can continue the work that began at Advocacy Day! We encourage you to visit our Advocacy page and use our Advocacy Ezine as a resource to contact your Members of Congress. Share your stories with them, encourage them to sign onto letters, or ask them to join the International Exchange and Study Caucus. Every little bit counts!