This past Saturday marked the finale of the 41st Annual Visitor Industry Charity Walk as over 7,000 participants took to the streets of Waikiki to raise money for local nonprofits on Oahu. However, this May 18th didn’t just mark the close of our annual event, but also signified the beginning of a new tradition, as hundreds of walkers traversed Ala Moana Beach Park’s Magic Island in the first ever Hawai‘i’s 1K Slippah Walk, a benefit for the Wounded Warrior Ohana.
As we concluded the Charity Walk festivities at Magic Island, I was proud to announce that the current combined statewide total (Lanai, Molokai, Hawaii Island, Kauai, Maui, and now Oahu) has reached an impressive $2.5 million thus far!
This remarkable feat would not have been possible without the amazing support of our generous members. Over the past 5 months, tourism partners from across the state have been hard at work raising thousands of dollars within each of their companies to help benefit local nonprofits in each of their respective communities.
While monies are still being accepted until May 31st, Oahu for instance is expected to total over $500,000, please submit those last-minute donations as soon as possible, so that we can proceed with the grant allocations process. Last year, the Visitor Industry Charity Walk raised a grand total of $2.6 million statewide and awarded funds to over 350 nonprofits. It’s our hope to not only do so again, but to exceed our previous records. If you have not yet made a charitable contribution, please support our efforts and give here: Lanai - Hawaii Island - Kauai - Maui - Molokai - Oahu.
I would like to extend a heartfelt mahalo for the yeoman work put forth by HLTA’s Chairperson Glenn Vergara, who has undertaken the role of Statewide Charity Walk Chair for the second year in a row now. His passion for the Charity Walk is second to none, and his leadership by example cannot be overstated.
For Maui County (Lanai, Maui, Molokai): my sincere thanks to MHLA’s Lisa Paulson, Christine Christensen, and Maui County Chair, Tets Yamazaki. They have been able to successfully top the million dollar mark yet again, with a total of $1.2 million raised; congratulations on another stellar year.
To the Hawaii Island Team: you exceeded your goal of $335,000 with a Walk Day total of $338,000 - that is fantastic. Congratulations to Charity Walk Chair, Steve Yannarell, Hawaii Island Chapter Chair Craig Anderson, and Bambi Lau for setting a new Hawaii Island record.
As for Kauai - this was an exceptional year. Congratulations to Charity Walk co-chairs Chip Bahouth and Jacob Vogelgesang, as well as HLTA Kauai Executive Director Morgan Lopez for exceeding their goal of $435,000 and setting an unprecedented county record of $442,000 raised.
On Oahu with over 7,000 walkers and volunteers over a 5-mile loop, there are a lot of people to thank.
First, our checkpoint sponsors:
Ala Moana Hotel
DoubleTree by Hilton Alana/Hawaii Convention Center
The Kahala Hotel & Resort
Duty Free Stores
‘Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
Waikiki Resort Hotel
Royal Hawaiian Center
Outrigger Hospitality Group
Halekulani & Halepuna Waikiki
Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa
Enterprise, Alamo, and National Car Rental
Our Breakfast Host, the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa, and our lunch and logistics partner, Kyo-ya Hotels and Resorts.
To our Media partners, Salem Media Group Hawaii and Hawaii News Now: thank you so much for all that you do, helping us to promote a better, healthier Hawaii- truly outstanding! Special mention to KITV for promoting the Slippah Walk.
Mahalo to our Emcees: Bulla Eastman (Salem Media), and Ashley Nagaoka (Hawaii News Now) and Robert Kekaula ( KITV) for the Slippah Walk.
Mahalo to the Honolulu Police Department, the Honolulu Parks & Recreation Team, Honolulu Department of Transportation Street Use Division, GP Roadways, HHVISA, our route van drivers, E Noa Tours, and to all our course marshal volunteers for keeping our participants safe during our event.
Thank you to Brookefield Properties and the Ala Moana Shopping Center for generously providing our Walkers with parking.
To our new contributor, Menehune Water: thank you for your wonderful donation, and enabling us to be a single-use plastic water bottle-free Walk! Also, thank you to Kokua Hawaii Foundation for providing water filtration dispensers within Magic Island for our participants.
Thank you to Project HiEHiE for providing additional restroom facilities.
And last, but certainly not least, mahalo to everyone who came out to walk with us as we continue our “tradition of giving.” Remember, “We’re all in this together”, and I am already looking forward to Charity Walk 2020!
Legislative Affairs: Honolulu Real Property Tax Update
Last week, the Honolulu Committee on Budget held a special meeting to deliberate real property tax measure Resolution 19-55, which aims at increasing the RPT rate for the hotel and resort classification. In lieu of the hearing, I invited hotel stakeholders to join me in meeting with newly elected Waikiki Councilmember Tommy Waters, where we highlighted our many points of opposition to the proposed real property tax hike. As you know, interim Waikiki Councilmember Mike Formby staunchly opposed any increase in the RPT. Prior to Councilmember Waters' victory in the recent Honolulu special election, we had met with every member of the Honolulu City Council to express our concerns with the administration’s proposal.
During the Committee on Budget’s special hearing, Mayor Caldwell made his way to the second floor of Honolulu Hale to lobby the councilmembers on reversing the current Budget Chair’s proposed increase of $0.50 per $1,000, back to his original proposal of $1.00 per $1,000. He stated that we have an extremely strong visitor industry with no signs of weakening, pointing to the selling prices of current hotel transactions, and subsequently claimed that we can afford the increase. He also reiterated his thoughts on how hotels are all owned by offshore investors who have CEO’s with extravagant salaries, and that the industry is making exorbitant amounts of money from resort fees. Among his many pointed comments at the visitor industry, he also claimed that while he did acknowledge our annual Charity Walk, he slighted tourism stakeholders as a whole by stating the amount raised for the community through this statewide event is a mere fraction of the $18 billion that is Hawai‘i’s visitor industry, not taking into consideration the millions that are contributed annually in time, money, and in-kind contributions by our members.
I would like to recognize and thank the industry leaders who came down to join me that day to offer testimony before the Budget Committee . Mahalo to HLTA Chairman Glenn Vergara, Waikiki Improvement Association’s Rick Egged, and representing the Leeward Coast, Angela Nolan from the Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club. However, despite our refute of the Mayor’s accusations that we as an industry can afford the increase, and despite the committee’s former stance on wanting to look at ways to further decrease the proposed RPT rate as there is fat in every budget and no cuts had been cited , and with no rational explanation or justification on why they were reversing their prior position to lower Caldwell’s proposed rate of a $1.00 to $.50, the councilmembers voted to go along with the Mayor’s proposal, bringing the discussion back to $13.90 per $1,000 for hotels and resorts. The votes were three “ayes” by Committee Chair Manahan, and Councilmembers Elefante and Menor, “Reservations” by Councilmember Waters, and a single “No” vote by Councilmember Pine.
As we head into the final stretch of the City’s budget process, I ask that our members stay vigilant with me in opposing this egregious and unwarranted increase . The next Full City Council meeting will be held on June 5th at 10 am at Honolulu Hale, stay tuned for updates.
TSA Anticipates Busy Summer Season
Summer is fast approaching, and that tends to be the busiest time of year for our islands. With the addition of new airlines and larger plane capacities, the Honolulu International Airport is anticipating a high volume of travelers bottlenecking through constrained checkpoints during peak departure timeframes.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) held a meeting this week to apprise everyone on what to expect in the coming months as we begin to see an increase in travelers coming to Hawaii. As an industry, we can do our part to help inform our visitors on how to best prepare for their arrival and departure.
As many of you know, it’s always best to arrive to the airport early: TSA is suggesting that travelers plan to arrive 3 hours prior to departure as TSA lines tend to get backed up. Due to hightened security measures, TSA officers may instruct travelers to separate items in carry-on bags such as foods, powders, or any other materials that can clutter bags and obstruct imaging on the X-ray machines.
Please be sure to inform guests to keep their carry-on bags organized, to keep TSA lines moving efficiently. If we can all make it our responsibility to inform our visitors on how to best prepare for their visit to and from Hawaii, we can make it an altogether enjoyable experience from the time of their arrival through their departure.
Stay in the know
Keep up with HLTA through our blog! Let us know what you think in the comment box below each post.