Congratulations to Cheryl Williams, general manager of The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Resort Collection, and Michael Wilding, general manager of DoubleTree by Hilton Alana – Waikiki Beach for being selected as this year’s HLTA Aloha United Way Fall Campaign co-chairs. The AUW Fall campaign brings various sectors of our community together to help raise funds for Hawaii’s non-profit organizations. Last year, Kelly Hoen and Teri Orton spearheaded the efforts among the lodging and tourism industry in Waikiki, bringing over $300,000. With Williams and Wilding at the helm this year, I’m positive we will continue to make a substantial difference in our local community. To join the movement, you can visit www.auw.org.
As a reminder, the nomination period for the aio Media Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Awards ends this Thursday, August 31, 2017. To all our members statewide, we encourage you to submit a nomination for this new awards program. The finalists will be honored at an awards gala on November 16 at the Hawaii Convention Center, and while the selection committee will determine the awardees, we would love to see a stage full of HLTA members that evening. With 16 award categories, the awards program recognizes various facets of our industry, from accommodations and restaurants, to events, individuals, tourism destinations, and more. Visit www.hawaiimagazine.com/hlta to view the full list of award categories and submit nominations.
As an update to the special session, the Senate Ways and Means committee launched the legislative special session with a public hearing on measure SB4, the bill determining the funding mechanism for Honolulu’s rail system on Monday afternoon by calling for the TAT to be increased by 1% for 13 years to help pay for the rail system.
After 5 hours of testimonies and deliberations, the Ways and Means committee ended the evening with a narrow 6-5 vote to pass the measure un-amended with Senators Kahele, Harimoto, Inouye, English and Riviere voting against the TAT funding for rail.
I’ve stressed the importance of our testimonies and presence at the hearings as they are necessary if we are to continue our push for no TAT increases. I am pleased to report that we have had an impressive turn out from our membership and our testimonies were very strong. Many Capitol observers remarked that they have never seen the hospitality industry turn out in such big numbers. And thanks to many of our members efforts, we submitted the names of nearly 2,000 of our hard-working associates.
I would like to thank the HLTA members who took time out of their busy day to come to the Capitol auditorium to join me in testifying at the public hearing on Monday. They were Scott Ingwers, Gregg Nelson, Ed Case, Kelly Hoen, Barbara Campbell, Rick Egged, Simeon Miranda, Charles Young, Dean Nakasone, Robin Graf, Lisa Paulson, Maui Council Chair Mike White, and Stephanie Donaho of the Kohala Coast Resort Association. Mahalo to David Wong and Max Sword as well for attending. Special recognition to Kaua‘i Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and Hawai‘i Island Mayor Harry Kim who in their testimony opposed the use of the TAT and Hawai'i Island Council Chair Valerie Poindexter who lent support by her presence.
I would also like to acknowledge the Waikiki Resort Hotel, Aqua-Aston Hospitality, The Imperial Hawaii Resort, and Castle Hotels and Resorts for taking the time to submit written testimony.
SB4 will head to the Senate floor for a final third reading vote today. If passed by a majority vote in the Senate chamber, the measure will cross over to the House of Representatives for its deliberations.
The House Finance and Transportation committees have scheduled a joint committee hearing for today, August 30, 2017 at 1:30 pm in the Capitol Auditorium. Again, I ask all of you that can to send in testimonies here to the hearing and if you or your associates can attend to testify in person to please do so. Please click here for the Finance/Transportation Hearing Notice.
HYPE had a great time Thursday night at the new Lucky Strike Social bowling, arcade gaming, and live music lounge. Over 60 members enjoyed the evening mixing and mingling over food, drinks, and bowling. Attendees also received a complimentary $10 Power Card for the venue's arcade gaming section, and many kept the evening rolling with games after the function. Mahalo to Lucky Strike Social for an awesome night, and mahalo to our sponsors ABC Stores, Bite Squad, and Kynbo for supporting the event!
This Thursday, August 24, HLTA’s Hospitality IT Council will celebrate its official launch at the newly renovated Prince Waikiki from 5-7pm. The council will provide a means of career development for technology professionals through collaboration and education, by promoting best practices, and by enhancing professionalism and personal success for its members. Please encourage your Information Officers, Directors, Managers, or individuals who work in a technology department of your organization to join us by registering here. Mahalo to General Manager Charles Abbott for graciously hosting the launch!
Also on Thursday, HLTA’s HYPE committee will be holding a Membership Drive and Mixer at the new Lucky Strike Social bowling alley and arcade gaming lounge. This sold-out event will provide a fun way for the young professionals committee to bond with each other and make new contacts while checking out the brand-new venue. Mahalo to the event sponsors, ABC Stores, Bite Squad, and Kynbo Inc.
Finally, on the legislative front, I would like to send my mahalo to all those that heeded the call of action and sent in letters to the Governor and legislators opposing the increase of the Transient Accommodations Tax to pay for the Honolulu Rail Project. I especially commend all those that went the extra mile and collected signatures from their associates to strengthen their statement. These grassroots initiatives are important as they should have an impact on the elected officials involved with the special session.
As an update yesterday, I led a delegation of 10 HLTA members to visit with the Governor where we discussed our industry’s position on the upcoming special session. Thanks to your hard work we were able to hand the Governor our updated position letter accompanied by 1,000 signatures in support of our industry’s stance! That same letter was also sent to the Senate President and the Speaker of the House and to all Legislative members. We also sent supportive testimonies to the Honolulu City Council and Kauai County Council for their support of the GET extension to fund rail.
During this meeting, we expressed our concerns in raising the Transient Accommodations Tax to cover the expense of the Honolulu Rail System, and we reinforced the idea that extending the General Excise Tax is the fairest and most equitable option. In response to our points the Governor did share our concerns with the volatility of the Transient Accommodations Tax in comparison to the GET. Yet, it is important that we not let up and continue our efforts in driving our point home. It is going to be a continuous uphill battle. I want to urge all those that haven’t reached out to your associates to garner their signatures to please do so. I ask that you keep us in the loop and send your correspondence to Jared Higashi of my staff at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be updating the executive and legislative branches throughout the week as more signatures come in and once again mahalo to all of you who have heeded the call to action.
On Monday, the Legislature convened a public hearing at the Hawai‘i State Capitol Auditorium with key government entities and the general public on state funding for the City & County of Honolulu’s rail project.
The hearing was led by the respective chairs of the Senate Committees on Ways and Means, Transportation and Energy, and Public Safety, Intergovernmental & Military Affairs alongside their counterparts in the House Committees on Finance, and Transportation. What turned out to be a seven-hour briefing served as a prolong discussion between the State Legislature, the City & County of Honolulu, the County Councils, and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation. The lengthy discussions between these bodies of government and HART not only set the groundwork for the real question at hand, which is how will we be funding Honolulu’s rail system.
Prior to the public hearing, five options were presented by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means covering the potential funding mechanisms necessary to finance the Honolulu Rail system. These proposals included a mix of extending and raising the general excise tax, adding an increase to the transient accommodations tax, and discussions on whether funding for this project should come just from Oahu or statewide.
In response to the potential inclusion of the transient accommodations tax to the funding formula, over 50 hospitality leaders and associates from the HLTA membership made their way down to the capitol to share our concerns during the briefing. I would like to send my mahalo to all those who came out to rally for the industry on Monday, to those who sent in testimony for the hearing, and to the 142 individuals that signed on to HLTA’s letter opposing a raise to the TAT, which I presented to the executive branch and key political leaders. Also kudos to Rick Egged, Ed Case, and Mike White who joined me in offering public testimony. We will continue to stay vigilant as we near the tentative special session date of August 28th. We appreciate the engagement of those that have participated in the process thus far and we will continue to seek your support for this very important issue.
In other HLTA news, over the weekend, tourists and locals in the International Market Place got a glimpse of Hawaii’s Golden Days as a statue of music legend Don Ho was unveiled in the very place he used to reign supreme with his nightly entertainment at the popular Duke Kahanamoku's night club. To celebrate the statue, a blessing ceremony with speakers and performances by the Ho family and Kimo Kahoano took place in the early afternoon, followed by special entertainment by Hawaiian music all-stars, Melveen Leed, Marleen Sai, Nina Kealiiwahamana, Kimo Kahoano, Nathan Aweau, Henry Kapono, and more. During the entertainment portion, my staff and I presented in conjunction with the Pauahi Foundation, the first-ever Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association Don Ho Legacy Scholarship to this year’s inaugural recipient Daylan-Blake Kala‘i, who will be attending New York University to pursue performing arts this Fall. Joining us on stage to make the presentation was Haumea Ho, Uncle Don's widow. We were following through on a commitment we had made to Haumea and son Dwight when we presented Don Ho, posthumously with the Na Poe Paahana Legacy Award in 2016 that we would establish such a scholarship in his honor. I also commended Jack and Cha Thompson of Tihati Productions for raising funds years ago to enable HLTA to recognize the arts and music in this fashion. Congratulations to Michael Fenley, the GM of International Market Place and his staff for a job well done.
On Monday, several members of HLTA attended a presentation by Randy Cohen, Vice President of Research and Policy for Americans for the Arts, who shared compelling research from the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 (AEP5) report. This national study, conducted by Americans for the Arts and implemented in Hawaii by the Hawaii Arts Alliance, details the economic impact of the nonprofit arts and culture industry in the State of Hawaii. The AEP5 report showed that the nonprofit arts and culture sector is a $205.6 million industry in the State of Hawai‘i, and supports 5,968 full-time equivalent jobs and generates $23.2 million in local and state government revenue. Nationally, a U.S. Department of Commerce study found that the arts is a $730 billion industry- 4.2% of the GDP. This shows that the arts not only enhance our quality of life, but is also a viable economic driver in our communities that intersect with many industries, including tourism. To read the report, visit the Hawaii Arts Alliance website: http://www.hawaiiartsalliance.org/aep5. For more information about Americans for the Arts and the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5, visit http://www.americansforthearts.org/by-program/reports-and-data/research-studies-publications/arts-economic-prosperity-5
Finally, mahalo to all our sponsors, volunteers, and golfers who attended HLTA’s 18th annual Scholarship Golf Tournament last week Thursday at the Hawaii Prince Golf Course. Together we raised over $55,000 to support HLTA scholarships and educational programs! I’d also like to give a shout out to emcees Kimo Kahoano and Senator Brickwood Galuteria who did a great job announcing our prize winners and conducting a live auction that evening to continue with the day’s festivities.
My staff and I with our inaugural Don Ho Legacy Scholarship recipient Daylan-Blake Kala'i and Haumea Ho at the Interational Market Place.
We hope to see you this Thursday, August 10 for our annual Scholarship Golf Tournament at the Hawaii Prince Golf Club in Ewa. Our golf committee and staff have been working hard to ensure a fantastic time. Mahalo to all our wonderful sponsors who are providing fun, food, drinks, and prizes throughout the day, and to all our teams who are contributing greatly to our scholarship fund. In addition to a slew of door prizes, there will be two great live-auction items for you to bid on: a trip on Hawaiian Air to New Zealand with a stay at the beautiful The Spencer on Byron Hotel and a trip to San Diego on Alaska Airlines with accommodations at the fabulous Fairmont Grand Del Mar.
As you know, the Scholarship Golf Tournament supports the many grants we give to aspiring young students, many of whom aspire to pursue a career in the hospitality industry. This year we have supported over ten students in their educational pursuits, in addition to the 42 students we provide scholarships for at our annual Citizen-Scholar Awards.
This Sunday, August 13, 2017, the International Market Place will be unveiling a statue in tribute to Don Ho at the Banyan court near Kalakaua Avenue. The ceremony will begin at 1:30p.m. with a blessing ceremony, speakers, and performances by the Ho family and Kimo Kahoano. Later that evening, there will be special entertainment by Hawaiian music all-stars, Melveen Leed, Marleen Sai, Nina Kealiiwahamana, Kimo Kahoano, Henry Kapono, and more. HLTA will also be presenting our Don Ho Legacy Scholarship to this year’s inaugural recipient Daylan-Blake Kalai, who will be attending New York University this Fall. If you are in the area, please join us to recognize this Hilo native and recent graduate from Kamehameha Schools on the Big Island, where he was greatly involved in the performing arts program. Last year, Kalai starred in the Hawaiian language opera Ha‘upu, which took him and his classmates to Edinburgh, Scotland to perform in the world’s largest performing arts festival.
On the legislative front, we are actively addressing our industry’s concerns with funding the Rail project through any increase of the transient accommodations tax. On Monday, August 14, there will be a public informational briefing at 10 a.m. in the State Capitol auditorium. We encourage all our members to attend this briefing and oppose increases to the TAT. Key committee chairs and members from both the House of Representatives and the State Senate will be in attendance to hear from the public as they work on an agreement on rail funding. Please submit testimony via email to the Senate Committee on Transportation and Energy at TRETestimony@capitol.hawaii.gov. Testimony may be submitted up to 24 hours prior to the start of the informational briefing. Please feel free to use our attached HLTA letter as a guide for your testimony and we ask that you also include your own specific examples on how increasing the TAT will be harmful to your business and the industry. This will make your testimony much more personal and unique. It is going to take a herculean effort from us all if we are going to persuade the legislature to eliminate the TAT as a potential funding source. It is critical that we have a strong showing. Unlike a legislative session that lasts 4 months, we’re talking about a special session that is 5 days in length and an informational briefing. Please do everything, if you’re in town, to rearrange your schedule to be there. Once again please feel free to contact Jared Higashi or anyone of us at HLTA if you have any questions.
HLTA had the pleasure of honoring John Shaw of Securitas Security Services with the Kahiau Award for selfless generosity last night at our Hospitality Industry Pau Hana at SKY Waikiki. As a Securitas Assistant District Contract Security Manager at Honolulu's Daniel K. Inouye Airport, John is not only committed to his job (he once saved a visitor's life with CPR), but he is also extremely active in the community, volunteering with numerous organizations and even portrays Santa Claus during the holidays with HPD's 'Shop with a Cop’ program for families in need and the Kapiolani Children’s Hospital. Read more about John and previous Kahiau award recipients here.
HLTA members continue to be very engaged in our community. For example, last week the Engineers Advisory Council initiated phase two of the theater stage rebuilding project at Kaiser High School. Throughout the week, Dennis Maher and his family, Stephen Weldon, and Chris Spencer (EAC chair and executive board members) not only hauled the lumber and materials into the Kaiser theater room, but worked on laying out the stage foundation every night so it would be completed by the weekend. Then on Saturday, eight members and volunteers came together to work on laying down additional foundation work, erecting walls, and putting in doorways. Members of the EAC will be constructing the finishing touches over the next week or two, installing railings, stairs, and flooring. Mahalo to the EAC and all the volunteers who are working hard to complete this project! If you are interested in volunteering for a great cause, contact Dennis Maher at email@example.com.
As mentioned in a previous Mufi’s Message, HLTA Oahu Chapter held a Back to School Supplies Drive at Kahala Mall, where they collected four large boxes of supplies and $500 in cash to donate to two Waikiki Elementary Schools. Last Friday, HLTA’s Oahu chapter, represented by Oahu Chapter Chair Bonnie Kiyabu, HLTA VP Dean Nakasone, and HLTA member Jodi Uehara, dropped off $500 worth of Longs gift cards to Principals Michelle DeBusca and Joseph Passantino of Ala Wai and Aliiolani Elementary Schools, who were very grateful. In fact, Principal DeBusca mentioned that in the case of her school, HLTA's gift would be donated to students who were victims of the Marco Polo fire as it will help them purchase their school supplies. Mahalo to all who participated in this terrific service project.
As many of you know, the legislative special session on funding for the Rail Project may have possible impacts on the transient accommodations tax. I have indicated in previous presentations and at our last board of directors meeting in July, we as an association will continue to have ongoing meetings and briefings regarding this issue. As a follow up to previous discussions, we will be holding a special meeting on Monday, August 7th at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Waikiki Beach Walk from 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm. The meeting will include a presentation and a Q & A segment with the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s (HART) interim director, Krishniah N. Murthy. Following his presentation, we will be sharing with you the latest proposals circulating in the legislature as well as bring you up to date on all the discussions we have had with key legislators in preparation of the special session that is tentatively scheduled for August 28th. To attend this meeting, please RSVP to Jared Higashi by Friday, August 4. Space is limited and priority seating is reserved for board members.
HLTA Oahu Chapter's Bonnie Kiyabu and Dean Nakasone with Ala Wai principal Michelle DeBusca (left) and Dean, Bonnie, and Jodi Uehara with Aliiolani principal Joseph Passantino (right).
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