HLTA Position Statements
HLTA's 2017 PUBLIC AFFAIRS
The mission of the Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association is to
Provide Advocacy, Education, & Philanthropy to the Hospitality Industry
TAT Funding for Homelessness
The Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association supports efforts to address homelessness throughout the Hawaiian Islands. This is a public concern that also affects the hospitality industry, particularly in Waikiki. During the past three years, the hospitality industry has given more than $2 million in private funds to social service providers, using money raised through our annual Charity Walk, two “Hawai‘i for Hawai‘i benefit concerts at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, and in-kind donations to the Institute for Human Services and other agencies for their homelessness programs.
HLTA endorses compassionate, comprehensive approaches to help the homeless receive permanent housing and necessary services, or help them return to their out-of-state homes if desired. We believe that a portion of the Transient Accommodations Tax revenue can be appropriated for social service agencies and non-profit organizations targeting homelessness in areas that impact tourism, across the state. On Oahu, these areas would include Waikiki, the Leeward Coast, and the North Shore.
Currently there are two measures that address this issue in the 2017 legislative session, they are: House Bill 317 and Senate Bill 1085 which both propose to allocate $2 million from the general coffers of the Transient Accommodations Tax to help fund homelessness efforts in tourism related areas.
Transient Vacation Units
The goal of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association is to establish a level playing field for all visitor accommodations, from the traditional hospitality businesses to the alternative accommodations offered online. There are an estimated 25,000 alternative accommodations in the Hawaiian Islands competing with hotels, resorts, timeshares, and bed-and-breakfasts, except that the majority of them are most likely avoiding our 9.25 percent Transient Accommodations Tax and General Excise Tax. Rather than outlaw these transient vacation units (TVUs), or raise the TAT, the state and county governments should collaborate on collecting the millions of dollars in taxes now being avoided; that uncollected revenue could amount to $100 million.
We believe that enabling the state to collect taxes from TVUs is the first step toward reaching a level playing field for all businesses operating in the islands. The HLTA supported a proposal approved by the 2016 Legislature, but subsequently vetoed by the governor, that would have authorized websites like Airbnb, ClearStay, HomeAway, and VRBO to collect taxes from their users and remit payments to the state, as many online retailers are now doing. We support the passage of legislation that will address the following along with the collection taxes:
The first and last impressions of our traveling visitors and residents are made at our airports. The hospitality industry’s success is dependent on the quality of our airports, and so it is imperative that we continue to improve our service and infrastructure. The Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Authority strongly supports increased attention to, and investment in, our airports. In this regard, the HLTA endorses the establishment of a state airport authority. We believe such an entity would give the necessary focus and priority to planning, operations, marketing, improvements, and the ever-evolving demands on modern airports. An airport authority, similar to those of many mainland municipalities, would provide administrative flexibility, a stronger voice for resources, and quicker and more efficient responses to the state’s needs. Swifter implementation of the ongoing airport modernization project, for example, might be better achieved with an authority exclusively charged with decision-making and oversight.
Hawai‘i is one of only three states that have a major airport that is solely run by the state government. It is also refreshing to see that the Department of Transportation backs the implementation of an airport corporation as long as it has the time to make the smooth transition.
HLTA'S WATCH LIST
Transient Accommodations Tax Increases:
The Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association opposes any increases in the Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT) or additional taxes directed at the hospitality industry. Instead of imposing new taxes, the state and county governments should aggressively pursue transient vacation units to collect the millions of dollars in TAT and General Excise Taxes currently being avoided by illegal operations.
Increasing the cost of doing business (i.e. minimum wage increases, mandatory sick leave, etc.):
The visitor industry is highly competitive, and higher taxes and operating costs can only hurt businesses in Hawai‘i. Our competitors often have lower room rates due to the lower overall cost of doing business (labor, property taxes, utilities, fees, etc.). In Hawai‘i, high business costs and tax rates make it increasingly difficult for businesses to be profitable and competitive, both in the domestic and international markets. The HLTA remains vigilant in opposing proposals that would raise the cost of business operations in the state.
Hawai‘i has not capitalized on our potential as a major sports venue. Building on this foundation requires strong, coordinated leadership, leadership that can best be supported by a sports authority with a statewide mandate and scope. The long-term goal of the sports authority will be to provide leadership, focus, and a voice for strengthening existing sports; attracting new events not necessarily restricted to sports; promoting Aloha Stadium and other public facilities on all islands; and thereby helping tourism. The HLTA is strongly in favor of this proposal.
HLTA supports the continued construction of the City and County of Honolulu’s rail transit project, including a station at Honolulu International Airport. The rail system would provide another transportation option for the millions of visitors and local residents. The airport station, meanwhile, will be an alternative means of commuting for employees of the airport, airlines, and associated or surrounding businesses.
Hawai‘i Island Shooting Range:
The Hawai‘i Island shooting range is being relocated, in a compromise reached between the hotels on the Kohala Coast, Representative Faith Evans, and the gun community. The HLTA supports proposals to development a new range outside business areas.
Creation of new taxes and surcharges that would affect the hospitality industry:
HLTA opposes any further increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax and additional surcharges and taxes imposed specifically on the hospitality industry. Hawai‘i has reached the point where added taxes hurt business. As a resort destination our taxes are higher than many of our competitors and the already high business cost and tax rates make it increasingly difficult for businesses to be both profitable and competitive.
Rental Car Company Taxes:
The rental car business plays a very large role in the hospitality industry and is a key component in ensuring that our visitors experience a standard of quality while visiting our islands. HLTA supports the ability of the rental car companies to recover all mandatory fees that is imposed on their companies. The ability to pass on these fees and taxes will in turn allow them to reinvest in their fleet and maintain a better product for their customers.
Diversification must include a mixture of visitor industry and non-visitor industry activities. In the visitor industry, we must seek balanced growth that meets the needs of the community and allows for a healthy economy. Efforts should be made to promote and encourage all segments of the economy. The Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association supports the development of new industries. There should be increased support for growth industries such as diversified agriculture, the film industry, medical services, and high technology. HLTA also supports the use and promotion of products grown and or made in Hawai‘i.
HLTA's Legislative stances: