At last year’s General Membership Meeting, I announced that HLTA will be developing three new committees in 2017: Housekeeping, Technology, and Agriculture. I’m proud to say that we have formed advisory councils for each of these committees, and will be opening them up to the membership shortly.
At their first meeting, the Agriculture Committee selected Dean Okimoto, President of Nalo Farms, as their chairperson and discussed upcoming events and partnership opportunities. The committee’s first initiative is helping to sponsor the Maui AgFest on Saturday, April 1 at the Maui Tropical Plantation. The Maui Ag Fest will feature plenty of locally grown products from each island as it showcases agriculture’s vital role in the economy and environment.
At AgFest, HLTA will also present the first “HLTA Ho’okipa Scholarship” of $1000 to a student from Maui High School’s Academy of Hospitality & Tourism (AOHT) named Sharmaine Domingo. Sharmaine is a Senior at Maui High School and has been serving as the vice president of the AOHT, where she has been involved with many service projects and gained hospitality experience through career shadowing. As her senior project, she planned the Junior AOHT Orientation Meeting for incoming juniors and their parents. She will be attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa starting this Fall, and will be majoring in Travel Industry Management. In the future, she plans to pursue a career in event planning.
The advisory council of the Technology Council met for the first time on Wednesday, and they had a great discussion of the needs and objectives of this new committee. To start, the committee will focus on elevating the role of IT in business and the community; educate IT leaders on best practices and technology solutions, while educating hoteliers on hot topics in technology; and develop ways to recruit and retain Hawaii’s IT Talent. There is a consensus that a technology committee within the hospitality industry has been a long time coming, and we’re looking forward to the exciting initiatives this group will bring to our association.
On the government affairs front, we have been working on both the State and County levels to ensure that our industry remains proactive, while protecting our best interests.
In the Legislature, we have seen that a handful of our priority bills in support and opposition are still alive and making their way through their subject matter committees.
All our association’s priority bills were heard at the Finance Committee yesterday. They include the establishment of an airport corporation (SB658), the extension of roles and duties of the Stadium Authority (SB994), as well as a bill that would help address the issue of homelessness in our hospitality areas (SB1290). The House Finance Committee reconvened this afternoon for decision making on these measures.
On the Senate side our most contentious bill of the session was heard, HB1471, which addresses the tax collection (both GET and TAT) of transient vacation rental brokers such as Airbnb. We applaud the work that Senate Tourism Chair Wakai and the Senate committees on Economic Development, Tourism, and Technology and Public Safety, Intergovernmental, and Military Affairs have done in crafting a Draft (HB1471 HD3 SD1) that addresses many of the concerns that the hospitality industry has been voicing and the efforts also of House Tourism Chair Richard Onishi, who has been steadfast in his support to providing funding for the Counties to incentivize them to start collecting these taxes also. The bill was heard yesterday in Ways and Means and Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health, and has been deferred to April 4th for decision making. As I have said time and time again, the key to moving this measure is to get the Governor to weigh in and disclose what he wants to see in the final product so that what happened last year does not occur again .
On the opposition front we have two measures, one in the State Legislature and one in the Honolulu City Council that are looking to raise the cost of doing business for hotels and resorts even further. In the Legislature, Bills SB863 and SB686 are moving through. These bills aim to add a surcharge to residential investment properties and transient accommodations through a constitutional amendment to fund public education. We are of course very supportive of our State’s education system, however, the proposed surcharge on our transient accommodations has the potential to harm our industry in a very large way as the surcharge asks for an additional $3 tax on all nights under $150 and $5 for all night stays over $150. Both measures have currently gone through their subject matter committees and are currently waiting be scheduled by the House Finance Committee.
At the Honolulu City Council, we are opposing Bill 31 (2017) which would raise the Real Property Tax Rate for Hotels and Resorts from $12.90 per $1,000 to $13.40 per $1,000, an increase of 50 cents. The City Council held first reading on this bill on March 22nd where the votes landed 5 ayes to 4 noes. The bill will now head to the Budget Committee where it will be heard on April 11th. We urge our members to stay vigilant in this matter and to help us in providing testimony opposing this increase (last increase was in 2014). We will be sending out additional information to help facilitate your involvement.
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