Mahalo to the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort for sending along these wonderful interviews from yesterday!
The day that we've all been awaiting has finally come and gone. Yesterday, trans-Pacific travel was restored, and the turnout exceeded early projections. Over the course of 30 incoming flights, the total number of incoming passengers was 10,012. Of these, nearly 7,000 were tourists. Moreover, nearly 85% of incoming travelers opted to utilize the state's incoming test program to exempt themselves from the mandatory, 14-day quarantine.
In speaking with hoteliers today, it seems that the majority of the day, both at the airport and at hotel check-in, went rather smoothly. In the links below, you'll find various media coverage of the first day of restored travel, including a firsthand account by a freelance journalist who traveled here and experienced how the airport's new standards would function.
As I noted in recent comments to The Washington Post, the pandemic was a horrific experience for our entire industry. But, now that we've actually re-opened, we'll slowly be able to reverse the trends that we've experienced for the past several months.
Media That May Interest You
"Hawaii or bust: A traveler’s notebook as he successfully navigates Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, October 15, 2020
"Final count of passengers arriving in Hawaii Thursday tops 10,000," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, October 16, 2020
As you know, yesterday we joined with the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, the Hawai'i Agricultural Foundation, and Hawaiian Airlines to launch our education and media campaign, "Mākaukau - We Are Ready". The response to the initial video, which is posted above, has been tremendous, and I feel strongly that this represents not only the readiness of our community to welcome tourists back, but also the demand that exists around the world to resume safe travel to Hawai'i.
Please take a moment to visit our website at Mākaukau.com.
Related Media Items
"Coalition of local businesses launch We Are Ready campaign to reopen Hawaii," KHON, October 15, 2020
"Business organizations welcome back visitors with “Makaukau – We Are Ready” campaign," KITV, October 15, 2020
"Residents are conflicted about the return of visitors under Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, October 15, 2020
We are pleased to report that our latest free food distribution has completely sold out. Now, we are looking for volunteers who would like to pitch in on Friday, October 23rd at Aloha Stadium to help us distribute the food bundles to hospitality families in need.
If you are interested in volunteering, please fill out this Google Form. For any other questions, please email Director of Membership & Special Projects, Ashley Yonamine at email@example.com.
General Membership Meeting
Have a great weekend.
Hawaii News Now Panel
On Monday evening, Hawaii News Now will air a special discussion panel on which I was invited to discuss various issues surrounding the upcoming resumption of trans-Pacific travel which is slated for October 15. Also appearing on the panel will be the following individuals:
Other Media That May Interest You
"Tourism resumes next week but some say ‘we are not prepared’," KHON, October 8, 2020
"Uncertainty around traveler testing program has many taking ‘wait-and-see’ approach," Hawaii News Now, October 10, 2020
In our latest installment of HLTA's Candidate Spotlight, we will be focusing on several of the candidates that we have endorsed for election to the House of Representatives.
Sam Kong currently serves as the representative for House District 33 which covers Aiea, Halawa, Newtown, Royal Summit, Pearl Ridge, Waimalu, and Enchanted Hills. He was first elected to the seat in 2014, stepping into the seat vacated by the late Mark Takai. The Air Force veteran is a small business owner and has been an ally of our industry since his election.
Last week, I met with first-time candidate Adrian Tam who is running for House District 22 which is comprised of Waikiki, Ala Moana, and Kaka'ako. In speaking with Adrian, it is very clear that he is eager not only to serve his district, but also to learn more about our industry and what we bring to the table- especially as members of the Waikiki community.
Trish La Chica is currently running for House District 36 which is made up of Mililani and Mililani Mauka. The former investigative journalist is currently the Policy and Advocacy Director for Hawai'i Public Health Institute and has drummed up immense grassroots support throughout this election cycle.
Candidate for House District 33
Aiea, Halawa, Newtown, Royal Summit,
Pearl Ridge, Waimalu, and Enchanted Hills
Candidate for House District 22
Waikiki, Ala Moana, and Kaka'ako
Trish La Chica
Candidate for House District 36
Mililani, Mililani Mauka
October 7, 2020
Today, the Honolulu City Council heard the first reading of Bill 80 (2020) which relates to the right of recall for laid-off hotel industry employees. The vote passed with six councilmembers voting aye, one voting with reservations, and Councilmembers Carol Fukunaga and Heidi Tsuneyoshi voting no. You may remember that Councilmember Tsuneyoshi was a staunch supporter of our industry when we opposed a hike in Real Property Tax rates last year.
Also, as a former City Councilmember, I would like to point out that having two councilmembers vote against an item up for first reading is unusual and highly encouraging for us as we look to defeat this measure.
Bill 80 (2020) Key Points
As such, I submitted testimony and had our Vice President of Government & Community Affairs Jared Higashi present oral testimony in staunch opposition to Bill 80 (2020). Mahalo to the following individuals who also submitted early written testimony opposing this bill:
Bill 80 (2020) will next be heard by the Committee on Executive Matters and Legal Affairs on Tuesday, October 20, at 1 p.m. EMLA is unique in that every councilmember sits on this committee. When Bill 80 (2020) is heard by EMLA, I must urge you to not only submit further testimony, but also take the opportunity to offer oral testimony via video during the committee hearing. We must make clear the disastrous effects that this measure will have on our industry.
We will send out further information and reminders as we get closer to the EMLA hearing date. If you need help with either crafting or submitting testimony, please feel free to contact either Jared Higashi or Jared Ellis at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com respectively.
As you know, the HLTA Endorsement Committee ultimately decided to remain open in the Honolulu mayor's race, but we are still sharing information about both candidates with our membership. In addition to his successful tenure as the Executive Director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, Keith Amemiya also has private sector experience as an executive with Island Insurance and a stint on University of Hawai'i Board of Regents.
Steve Alm is a former United States Attorney, First Circuit Court Judge, and Deputy Prosecutor and was the leading candidate in the primary election for Honolulu Prosecutor. In reading his questionnaire, it is clear that Steve is deeply committed to restoring trust and transparency in a City office that has struggled under the weight of investigations and controversy in recent years.
Below you will find links to the candidates' campaign websites as well as the HLTA questionnaire that they completed to be considered for endorsement. If you click their headshot, you'll be able to view a personal video that they have recorded for HLTA.
HLTA, the Maui Lodging & Tourism Association, and a Maui nonprofit recently partnered to provide more than 400 local tourism industry employees and their families with free food bundles. This was made possible through funds generated through the #AlohaLater campaign.
Please join us for this Instagram Live event.
October 2, 2020
In today's edition of HLTA's Candidate Spotlight, I wanted to highlight just a handful of the county level candidates for Honolulu. Below, you will find the three candidates for the Honolulu City Council that have been endorsed by HLTA. Esther Kia’āina (District 3), Jacob Aki (District 7), and Augusto 'Augie T' Tulba (District 9) are first-time candidates for the City Council and each of them brings a wealth of different experiences to the table. All three impressed us during both the primary election cycle and our endorsement process, and I am excited to see how they will serve their communities should they be elected.
The HLTA Statewide Endorsement Committee was impressed by both candidates for the Honolulu mayoral seat. Although we ultimately decided to remain open during this election, we are going to share information about both candidates leading up to Election Day. This week, we are featuring Rick Blangiardi, the former general manager of Hawaii News Now. Rick has extensive experience in the private sector and would bring both leadership and a vast network of relationships to Honolulu Hale. During his interview with our committee, Rick made clear that he was ready and willing to work with tourism industry stakeholders throughout our economic recovery.
Be on the lookout for our feature on Keith Amemiya next week.
In the sections below, you will be able to access their campaign websites, review the tourism-centric questionnaire that they submitted for possible endorsement, and hear a special message recorded by the candidate which can be viewed by clicking their headshot.
Moving forward, Candidate Spotlights which will be sent out twice a week through my message posts. You may also visit our endorsement page to view info on each of our endorsed candidates.
Candidate for Honolulu City Council District 3
Ahuimanu, Heeia, Haiku, Kaneohe, Maunawili, Kailua, Olomana, Enchanted Lake, and Waimanalo
Augusto 'Augie T' Tulba
Candidate for Honolulu City Council District 9
Waikele, Village Park, Royal Kunia, Mililani Town, West Loch, Iroquois Point, and portions of Ewa Villages and Ewa Beach
Candidate for Honolulu City Council District 7
Kalihi, lwilei, Kalihi Kai, Mapunapuna, Salt Lake, Aliamanu, Hickam,
Foster Village, Ford Island, and Sand Island
On October 23rd, HLTA will again partner with Aloha Harvest to host a food distribution event for hospitality workers and their families. In order to maintain social distancing, this will be a drive up event held at Aloha Stadium.
At past distributions, we have been extremely fortunate to have so many volunteers show up to help out. If you would be interested in joining us as a volunteer at our next event, please fill out this form. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact HLTA Director of Membership & Special Projects Ashley Yonamine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 28, 2020
While October 15 and the restoration of trans-Pacific travel draws nearer, businesses around the state continue to prepare for an influx of visitors while also navigating new COVID-19 restrictions, especially on O'ahu. These restrictions, which are part of the recently unveiled Honolulu’s tiered recovery program, have raised numerous questions ranging from exemptions to enforcement. They have also caused some to ask: who will want to visit Hawai'i under such restrictions?
As we have pushed Gov. Ige to re-open, I have consistently made clear in comments to the media that any trip to Hawai'i right now won't boast all the usual trimmings and perks of a pre-COVID-19 vacation. That being said, visitors can still come here, enjoy the many things we have to offer, and rest easy knowing that our local tourism industry has made the necessary preparations to keep them safe and healthy throughout their stay. I expect that further issues requiring clarification will arise when visitors begin to arrive, and they will be addressed as needed. But we can also start tweaking and fixing some of the more obvious and onerous restrictions now as was pointed out in today’s Star-Advertiser story cited above.
Despite these ambiguities, it is evident that the word is spreading that Hawai'i will soon be open for business. The Anchorage Daily News, the most widely read news publication in Alaska, recently contacted me for a story detailing both how Alaskans can travel to Hawai'i, and what they need to know about our pre-arrival testing program and current COVID-19 restrictions.
I am confident that the demand for travel to Hawai'i exists and will only continue to grow as travelers learn that they can come here secure in the fact that we are prepared to keep them safe.
"HLTA supported Mitch for the top job at the Prosecutor's Office in 2016, and he did an outstanding job working with the hospitality industry to create a safe environment for both visitors and Hawai'i Island residents. He has close working relationships with Hawai'i Island legislators, and I am highly confident that he will bring a collaborative and energetic style of leadership to the Mayor's office."
Candidate for Senate District 19
'Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe, 'Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point,
portion of 'Ewa Villages
"We supported Senator Fevella during the Senate District 19 Special Election in 2018, and he has been a champion for our industry for the past two years. The lifelong 'Ewa Beach resident has always kept his door open for tourism industry stakeholders, and we are confident that he will continue to be an ally when he is re-elected."
Over the coming weeks, we will continue to share key information about the candidates that have been endorsed by HLTA for November's election. You may also visit our endorsement page here. There you will be able to review their websites as well as the tourism-centric questionnaire that they completed to be considered for endorsement.
Don't forget to click on the candidate's photos to watch their personal videos!
With trans-Pacific travel set to resume in just over two weeks, there have been numerous questions about the logistics surrounding the mandatory COVID-19 test for those looking to bypass Hawai'i's mandatory 14-day quarantine. When the October 15 date was originally announced, the State indicated that agreements had been struck with both CVS and Kaiser Permanente to provide testing for travelers. These tests are available to potential travelers for $139.
Hawaiian Airlines also recently announced that it will begin offering pre-travel, drive-up testing for Hawaiian Airlines passengers beginning October 15. An express, same-day test will cost $150 while a standard test that produces results within 36 hours will cost $90. Initially, this service will be offered near the Los Angeles and San Francisco international airports with more locations to be announced soon.
Additionally, United Airlines will be offering Hawai'i-bound passengers a $250 test that will be administered at the airport. This test will produce results in 15 minutes, but will only be offered at San Francisco International Airport for the time being.
On the local front, the entire lodging industry has continued to prepare for the restoration of tourism. In addition to the HLTA Health, Safety, & Security Standards, many hotel properties have adopted either their own standards or that of their national brand. In an effort to keep industry members and prospective travelers abreast of hygiene standards, we have created a continuously updated hub on our website where visitors to the site can find hotel standards all in one place. I encourage you to take a moment to visit the page and see what hotels around the state are doing to prepare.
In recent weeks, our office has fielded questions about a variety of issues including the upcoming re-opening which is slated for October 15. The State Department of Health has compiled a list of frequently asked questions which can be viewed by clicking here.
Additionally, Gov. Ige appeared on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser's Spotlight Hawai'i on Facebook Live. Some of his comments are provided below courtesy of the Hawai'i Tourism Authority:
(Asked about possibility of interisland pre-travel testing to bypass interisland quarantine)
“One of the concerns is that we only have limited testing capacity in the state. At normal back in January it was common for us to have 25,000 interisland trips per day and clearly we only have the testing capacity of 5,000. We’re working to expand that, but we have really limited testing capacity and that comes into the equation about interisland pre-travel testing.”
(Asked about the October 15th reopening date)
“Our focus is really on creating a safe way for travelers to come, and the pre-travel testing program and getting a test that is negative prior to coming really does help us improve the numbers who are coming and making sure they are not infected. It will be a limited experience, as you know restaurants are not fully open at this time especially here on O‘ahu and so we want to make sure that our partners are informing those who might be traveling that it’s not the pre-COVID Hawai‘i where we have thousands and thousands of visitors here, and many businesses will still be on reduced schedules, restaurants will not be fully open so it will be a very different experience and we want to make sure that those who choose to come here will understand that and not expect full access to all of the attractions that they would’ve gotten if they came in January of this year.”
(Asked about locals who take a trip to the mainland)
“The pre-travel testing program applies to everyone, whether residents who travel to the mainland and are coming back or it’s a visitor planning a trip. So, if a resident is planning a trip to the mainland if they can make arrangements to get a pre-travel test prior to their return they can avoid the 14-day quarantine.”
(Asked about travelers coming in from other countries)
“For most of the international travelers the U.S. is still on a status that they don’t encourage travel to the United States. As I said before, we’re working with the governments to really treat Hawai‘i separate from the U.S. and there has been a willingness. We are working with our travel partners in Japan, South Korea and New Zealand to really identify the tests, the equivalent tests that they might be able to get in Japan or Korea or New Zealand, making sure they’re equivalent.”
(Asked about testing young children)
“A lot of our partners at this time are not willing to be testing children so families trying to travel on this pre-travel testing program will have a difficult time finding someone who can administer the test. So we are focused on enabling more trans-Pacific travelers to come. It won’t be the ideal situation, it’s not going to be accessible to everyone who wants to travel. We do continue to expand the testing program hoping that the partners would be willing to test children but they’re not willing to do that at this point in time so we’ll work with what we can and continue to expand the program as we continue to move forward.”
Finally, we have also launched a new page on our website highlighting the candidates that we have endorsed for the general election. On this page, you will be able to find links to campaign websites, their completed questionnaires, and a personal video from each candidate. We will continue to update this page as we receive more submissions.
Have a great weekend,
Mufi with Hawai'i County mayoral candidate Prosecutor Mitch Roth at a Pacific Century Fellows event at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in 2017.
The Hawai'i Lodging & Tourism Association takes pride in its government affairs work and its advocacy on behalf of the local tourism industry, and I have always put great emphasis on representing the interests of our industry and the Hawai'i community before our State and county governments.
As such, I am excited to announce that the following candidates have been endorsed by HLTA in the general election:
Hawai‘i State Senate
Gil S. Coloma Keith-Agaran, District 5
Stanley Chang, District 9
Kelly Kitashima, District 16 Special Election
Kurt Fevella, District 19
Donovan Dela Cruz, District 22
Hawai‘i State House of Representatives
Chris Todd, District 2
Richard Onishi, District 3
Justin Woodson, District 9
Lynn DeCoite, District 13
Nadine Nakamura, District 14
James Kunane Tokioka, District 15
Gene Ward, District 17
Mark Hashem, District 18
Adrian Tam, District 22
Sam Kong, District 33
Gregg Takayama, District 34
Trish La Chica, District 36
Ryan Yamane, District 37
Ty Cullen, District 39
Bob McDermott, District 40
David Alcos, District 41
Stacelynn Eli, District 43
Cedric Gates, District 44
Lauren Cheape Matsumoto, District 45
Sean Quinlan, District 47
Scot Matayoshi, District 49
Patrick Branco, District 50
Kaua‘i County Council – At-Large Candidates
Bernard Carvalho Jr.
Jade Waialeale Battad
Maui County Council
Claire Kamalu Carroll, East Maui
Rick Nava, West Maui
Alice Lee, Wailuku-Waihe‘e-Waikapū
Yuki Lei Sugimura, Upcountry
Tasha Kama, Kahului
Tom Cook, South Maui
Alberta De Jetley, Lāna‘i
Stacy Helm Crivello, Moloka‘i
Keith Amemiya or Rick Blangiardi - Open
Honolulu City Council
Esther Kiaʻāina, District 3
Jacob Aki, District 7
Augusto E. Tulba, District 9
Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney
Hawai‘i County Council
Dominic Yagong, District 1
Hawai‘i County Mayor
Many of these endorsements should come as no surprise as several candidates have long been friends to our industry. Among our endorsements for election to the Hawai'i State Legislature, you will find the names of more than a few incumbents who have already shown their willingness to work with the tourism sector.
On the county front, however, HLTA opted to endorse a mix of newcomers and political veterans. In the Hawai'i County mayoral race, HLTA has endorsed Mitch Roth who we backed for the top job in the Prosecutor's Office back in 2016. In the years since, he has done an outstanding job working closely with the hospitality industry to create a safe community for residents and visitors alike.
In the Honolulu mayoral race however, our endorsement committee was unable to come to a decision between political newcomers Rick Blangiardi and Keith Amemiya. While both candidates impressed committee members with their business-oriented goals and expressed eagerness to work with industry stakeholders to rebuild Hawai'i's top economic driver, the committee, and ultimately, our Board of Directors, decided to remain open or neutral in this race.
Each of the candidates that we have endorsed for the Honolulu City Council are first-time candidates for their seats. In reviewing their questionnaires, they showed an exceptional grasp of the issues and signaled their support for our industry. On the neighbor islands, we chose to endorse candidates that we felt would work in close correlation with their respective county mayors who we have supported in previous elections.
Over the next week, we will begin sharing more detailed information about candidates in key races on our website. When this page goes live, we will send out more notice on the details. Please make sure to share it with all of your associates so that they may see exactly which candidates will champion our local tourism industry in the halls of government
Mufi is pictured above with Honolulu City Council candidate Augie Tulba.
It is not too late to register to vote in the upcoming general election! Below, you will find key dates and how to register to vote- even if you did not vote in the primary.
November 3, 2020
Voting closes at 7:000 p.m.
VOTER REGISTRATION DEADLINE
October 5, 2020
BALLOT MAIL-OUT DATE
County of Hawai'i: October 7, 2020
County of Maui: October 8, 2020
County of Kaua'i: October 9, 2020
City and County of Honolulu: October 5 & 6, 2020
REGISTER HERE TO VOTE IN NOVEMBER
Other Topics of Interest
In yesterday's top story, KHON covered the readiness of local hotels for the re-opening of trans-Pacific travel which will begin on October 15. My comments on the matter focused on the fact that October 15 is a hard, confirmed date, and that the entire industry will have to go to great lengths to change the perception that Hawai'i isn't open for business. The online article also posted HLTA's Health, Safety, & Security Standards that have been approved by the State Department of Health.
In other tourism-related news, Hawaii News Now reported that the Maui Invitational basketball tourney is being moved from Hawai'i to North Carolina. This will mark the first time in the tournament's 36-year history that it will not be held on Maui, and we cannot take it for granted or assume that this prestigious basketball tournament will return automatically in 2021. This highlights the importance of sports tourism to our economy and the need for our tourism officials and government leaders to develop a pro-active strategy to keep in Hawai'i these quality events that have been synonymous with Hawai'i from a visitor and local perspective.
Last week, CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg stated on a Facebook Live appearance that Hawai'i would not be ready for tourists until January. He also incorrectly reported that the group lobbying hardest to this effect were the hotels themselves. It caused quite a stir amongst our members...As you well know, HLTA's position is not only that we are ready to welcome guests back, but that we have taken every precaution to keep guests safe once they arrive and that our colleagues and co-workers health and safety is also of utmost importance.
As such, I sent the following message to Mr. Greenberg earlier today:
Aloha Mr. Greenberg,
I hope you had a wonderful Labor Day holiday.
August 29, 2020
Today, the State Department of Health reported 310 new COVID-19 cases- the vast majority of which are still occurring on O'ahu.
I understand how daunting the "Stay at home/Work from home" order can be, but we need to get this under control. People continue to contract this disease, people continue to lose their lives, and we continue to suffer as a state. Fortunately, our tools against COVID-19 are clear; social distance; wear masks; practice good personal hygiene. If we can commit to these ideas and each do our part, we will surely see Hawai'i's caseload begin to diminish again.
On a positive note, The Maui News has reported that Mayor Victorino has given the official green light for filming of "Temptation Island" to begin at the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort. Despite recent opposition to this project, the production crew and cast will be contained in a bubble and will be subject to rigorous COVID-19 standards including multiple COVID-19 tests, use of PPE at all times except during filming, and strict COVID-19 hygiene protocols for the resort staff.
This project, which received support from several local labor unions, will provide more than 100 jobs to local film crew- not to mention lodging industry jobs for numerous staff at the Andaz. I am pleased that Mayor Victorino and the Maui community have ultimately decided to move forward with this production as it will give a local resort the chance to demonstrate that hygiene protocols can, in fact, keep people safe.
In closing, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to John De Fries who has been offered the top post at the Hawai'i Tourism Authority. John brings a wealth of tourism experience to this job. Born and raised in Waikiki, he has been involved in our industry in one way or another for decades. Most recently, he has served as executive director of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association.
John joined HLTA as a guest speaker at our 2019 General Membership Meeting and impressed everybody in attendance that day with his presentation, "The Physics of Pō". He will be a strong leader for HTA in what will certainly be difficult times, and I look forward to working closely with him as I did with Chris Tatum. We certainly wish Chris and Peg well as they take a well-deserved vacation before re- locating to Colorado.
Please continue to stay safe and enjoy your weekend.
Support the Film/Tourism Industry
The filming of "Temptation Island" on Maui was postponed last week by Mayor Mike Victorino, who wanted more time to evaluate the proposal.
The month-long production at the Andaz Maui would have generated at least $7.5 million in spending, brought maybe a hundred visiting cast and crew, and employed another hundred local people, not including hotel workers- in little less than two months. Filming was to take place at the Andaz, with everyone following at least three weeks of strict testing, quarantine, and isolation protocols established by the state and county governments, as well as the national film industry, in order to protect both the crew and public.
In the wake of the postponement, Mayor Victorino said he will form a committee to guide restarting film production, which at the very least will involve affected businesses and other stakeholders in providing input for pandemic response decision-making.
This was - we hope - only a temporary setback to our recovery, because it serves as an example of the synergy between tourism and related industries, of which film and television production has become a mainstay. This one production would have enabled one hotel to recover some of its lost business, provided jobs for local film technicians and hotel workers, and stimulated spending in our economy—all within a safe and strictly enforced bubble. We can do more to encourage this type of economy activity, which meets all the standards for a safe working environment, especially for the affected employees.
We believe resuming film and TV production in the islands, following public health protocols and standards, is one way to provide some measure of hope for our economic recovery. As I have long maintained hearkening back to my days as the state director of DBEDT, this is also a way to draw upon our core competence of our tourism-dominant economy by supporting other industries that complement tourism, create jobs, and showcase the beauty and natural resources of the Hawaiian Islands to a global audience.
More film and television series like "Hawaii 5-0" and "Magnum P.I." are exactly what we need to seek and support during these very challenging economic times. A successful launch of "Temptation Island" on the Valley Isle could spark additional interest of other series being filmed and produced throughout our state. We urge our elected officials and the community to support this initiative.
Stay in the know
Keep up with HLTA through our blog! Let us know what you think in the comment box below each post.