HLTA hosts Gov. Affairs Committee Meeting with talks by U.S. Rep. Mark Takai, Joe Boivin of Hawaii Gas, and Kyle Datta of Ulupono Initiative.
HLTA hosted U.S. Representative Mark Takai at a Government Affairs Committee meeting on Tuesday, March 29, 2016 at Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. The Congressman spoke about opposing the reduction of per diem rates for military and federal personnel, the importance of keeping our Visa Waivers intact, and an update from the federal perspective on an “international” status designation for the Kona International Airport.
Joe Boivin, Senior VP of Hawaii Gas and Kyle Datta, General Partner of Ulupono Initiative also spoke at the meeting to share insight and position statements on the NextEra/HECO merger. Hawaii Gas’ position on the merger is neutral; they neither support nor oppose the merger but require fair competition. Ulupono Initiative supports the merger if NextEra commits to the following conditions: lower electricity rates, ring fencing provisions, firm commitments to accelerating renewable energy generation, reliability and resilience, fair competition, and unbiased planning.
It's Charity Walk season! Recruitment for the 38th Annual Visitor Industry Charity Walk has officially begun after a Charity Walk Kick Off Rally on March 22, 2016 at the Ala Moana Hotel Hibiscus Ballroom. The event was emceed by HLTA's newest member, Director of Communications & Special Projects Alex Roth. Attendees heard from various speakers including HLTA President & CEO Mufi Hannemann, 2016 Charity Walk Chair Dean Nakasone, Cultural Director for Royal Hawaiian Center Monte McComber, past Charity Walk beneficiaries Waikiki Health and PITCH (Projects Inspiring Teens Changing Hawaii), and more. Information about this year's Walk, recruiting packets and tips, walk forms, and collateral pieces were all shared to help attendees start recruiting Charity Walk sponsors and participants. Visit our Charity Walk event page to learn more and download posters and other collateral!
Upon hearing from Councilmembers Trevor Ozawa and Joey Manahan on a homeless solution in Seattle that has done wonders to combat homelessness in the state of Washington, Mufi Hannemann, HLTA's President felt it was important that HLTA as an organization be briefed on this very timely topic. "I'm always looking proactively for solutions and best practices from other areas to continue to build on the progress we've made thus far in Waikiki, and most recently on Maui, " stated Hannemann.
“As much as people need a meal, they also need a shower,” said Councilmember Joey Monahan at HLTA’s joint Government and Homelessness Committee meeting on March 15, 2016. In a presentation with Councilmember Trevor Ozawa, Councilmember Monahan introduced Urban Rest Stops: clean, safe, and welcoming facilities for homeless individuals and families to use restrooms, showers, and laundry machines free of charge.
The Urban Rest Stop, a program of the Low Income Housing Institute, has been incredibly successful in Seattle, Washington where there are currently three locations. As of 2014, the Urban Rest Stops in Seattle have provided 714,683 showers, 318,116 loads of laundry, 1,368,499 restroom visits, and serviced 36,361 unduplicated patrons. The operation costs of each facility run between $150,000 to $300,000 a year.
The statistics from the Seattle Urban Rest Stops show facilities such as this can be extremely effective. Paramount to the quantifiable data, however, is the improvement in a homeless person’s quality of life. Showers and laundry facilities, not to mention a safe place to use the restroom, are crucial amenities affecting a person’s ability to acquire jobs and maintain healthy relationships. The Urban Rest Stops promote responsibility and respect through reservation policies and rules of use. Patrons must practice daily life skills, such as making a reservation, being punctual, and cleaning up after oneself in order to use the facilities. Seattle found the patrons of the Urban Rest Stops had improved physical and mental health, and there was reduced hostility between homeless and housed persons.
In addition to improving the individual’s quality of life, Urban Rest Stops will also benefit communities and tourists. With a clean and dignified place to shower or use the restroom, homeless individuals will be less likely to trespass onto hotel or residential property to use restrooms or hoses. Shared community spaces such as buses, parks, beaches, and public walkways will be cleaner and more attractive. “A clean community is a healthy community,” said Councilmember Ozawa.
In Honolulu, an Urban Rest Stop could serve well in various areas, particularly Chinatown, Kaka`ako, North Shore, and Waikiki. “We only need one to start the fire,” said City Council Chairperson Ernest Martin. Hawai`i’s large-scale problem of homelessness will require innovative and diverse initiatives to be solved. While providing the infrastructure for good hygiene won’t be a comprehensive solution, it will be a good place to start. The Hawai`i Lodging & Tourism Association is a strong advocate for addressing homelessness concerns, and supports the development of Urban Rest Stops in Hawai`i.
Regulating transient vacation units, promoting Hawai‘i as a destination for sports and entertainment, and identifying additional funding for the World Conservation Congress were the top three legislative priorities discussed last Tuesday, Feb. 23 at the first ever “Tourism Day at the Capitol,” hosted by the Hawai‘i Lodging and Tourism Association. Legislators, HLTA members, and members of the general public gathered at the State Capitol to learn about Hawai‘i’s leading industry through an educational seminar, a hospitality-driven expo, and a legislative meet and greet.
The educational session kicked off the day’s activities with HLTA’s CEO Mufi Hannemann and guest speakers presenting the current state of Hawai‘i’s tourism industry and addressing legislative priorities of the association. Rick Egged from the Waikiki Improvement Association addressed the importance of regulating transient vacation units by collecting the 9.25 percent Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT) currently being avoided. Hawai‘i’s hotels paid an additional $453 million through the TAT in fiscal year 2015. By collecting the TAT from the 25,000 plus transient vacation units in Hawai‘i, the state and county governments will be able to fund worthy projects and initiatives that advance our visitor industry.
Continuing with the seminar, Hannemann pointed out the yet-to-be seized potential of promoting Hawai‘i as a sporting and entertainment event venue. HLTA supports a proposal for a Sports Authority to provide leadership, laser-like focus, and a voice for strengthening existing sports and attracting new events to the islands. Events such as the Pro Bowl, Honolulu Marathon, and Sony Open already draw tens of thousands of visitors each year. It’s no question that promoting these sports events and public facilities such as the Aloha Stadium and luring world class entertainment acts to Hawai‘i will help bolster tourism to the state.
Bitsy Kelley from Outrigger Enterprises Group and Mark McGuffie from International Union of Nature shared an exciting “first look” of what’s to be expected for the World Conservation Congress to be held in Hawai‘i this September. The World Conservation Congress, hosted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, is often referred to as the “Olympics of Conservation” and presents a tremendous opportunity for Hawai‘i, especially as this is the first time in all of the Congress’ 68 years that it will be convened on U.S. soil. The Congress will bring together world experts in government, civil society, indigenous peoples, business, and academia with an aim to improve the way we manage our natural environment.
Hannemann also covered the need for an airport authority to oversee all aspects of our airport system in the state of Hawaii which recently came under fire in a national survey and funding for an environmental study as a first step to reviving interisland ferry service. Every survey done on this subject shows at least eight out of 10 people want to see a ferry service operating between our counties.
The educational seminar rounded out with a word from Waipahu High School’s principal Keith Hayashi on building a strong future for hospitality. With strong encouragement and support from HLTA, the high school intends to combine their culinary and hospitality career pathway academies to establish their third nationally accredited program.
Throughout Tourism Day, the fourth-floor foyer of the State Capitol was turned into a tourism expo, featuring exhibits by HLTA, hotels and other tourism businesses, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions. Over 20 exhibits were displayed, highlighting the positive impact the tourism industry has on our state. The day’s activities ended with an opportunity for our government leaders and key industry stakeholders to have a “meet and greet” over lunch.
Overall, the first Tourism Day at the Capitol had an overwhelmingly positive response. In fact, the event was so well received that HLTA has decided to make this an annual event! Here’s to hoping next year’s Tourism Day at the Capitol will be even better.
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