Mufi's Message - January 29, 2021
'Alohilani Resort Concierge Service
From left: HLTA Chair Cheryl Williams; HVCB President & CEO John Monahan; Mufi Hannemann; HTA President & CEO John De Fries; Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi; Highgate Hawaii Senior VP Kelly Sanders; V2 Medical Group CEO Jeff Gable, V2 Medical Group Managing Director Pualani Gable, and their team.
Yesterday, the 'Alohilani Resort announced the launch of its new concierge service that will help travelers navigate the COVID-19 testing process. As we all know, finding a trusted partner and obtaining timely test results has been a major cause of concern for prospective travelers. Now, through a partnership with local pandemic management agency V2 Medical Group, 'Alohilani customers will be able to source an at-home test, schedule a tele-health appointment to administer the test, and receive their results in time for their flight.
This is an innovative solution from the 'Alohilani. My congratulations to Highgate Hawaii Senior VP Kelly Sanders, our very own HLTA Chair Cheryl Williams, 'Alohilani General Manager Matthew Grauso, and the V2 Medical Group led by Jeff and Pualani Gable for the successful launch!
Lt. Gov Josh Green
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green addresses the HLTA membership at the 192nd General Membership Meeting at the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort on October 18, 2019.
This coming Tuesday, the HLTA Board of Directors and Government Affairs Committee will meet with Lt. Governor Josh Green to discuss specifics on the State's vaccination schedule and to advocate for hospitality workers to be among the earliest individuals to be vaccinated. This is a critical discussion and it is important to protect the men and women who are the backbone of our industry as early as possible.
I look forward to this session with the lieutenant governor and encourage our board and committee members to attend the meeting if at all possible.
State of the Industry
Recently, two travel industry leaders issued their annual State of the Industry addresses from a national perspective. U.S. Travel Association President & CEO Roger Dow provided an update on the current travel climate. His remarks, which can be viewed here, covered a number of pressing issues currently facing the industry including the following:
American Hotel & Lodging Association President & CEO William "Chip" Rogers also delivered his annual address which reported on AHLA's 2021 State of the Hotel Industry Report which can be viewed in its entirety here. AHLA's report provides a status update on the lodging industry as well as a detailed outlook for the coming year.
Mayor Billy Kenoi
Pictured from left: Former Kaua'i Mayor Bernard Carvalho; Former Maui County Mayor Charmaine Tavares; Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann; Former Hawai'i Mayor Billy Kenoi
I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Hawai'i Island Mayor Billy Kenoi earlier this week. During my time as mayor, I enjoyed a close working relationship with Billy along with former Mayors Charmaine Tavares and Bernard Carvalho. We formed the Hawai'i Council of Mayors that became the basis of an unprecedented collaboration never witnessed before in the state of Hawai'i. From the State Capitol to Washington D.C. we were united as a team, speaking with one voice on behalf of our counties.
I was fortunate to have known Billy so well and my deepest condolences go to his wife Takako, their children, and the entire Kenoi 'ohana during this difficult time.
KHON2: Friends say Kenoi was sharp, witty, funny in final days,
Mufi's Message - January 26, 2021
US Travel Webinar
Tomorrow at 8 a.m. HST, the U.S. Travel Association will host a free event which will include President & CEO Roger Dow's annual State of the Travel Industry Address. The speech, which will be broadcast from the National Press Club, is entitled "Refueling the Economy and American Jobs Through Travel" and will cover a bevy of topics including the relief and stimulus priorities for our industry.
As part of the event, USTA will also be unveiling its Power of Travel Platform which will comprehensively detail topics such as advocacy, how to increase our country's global competitiveness, and how we can redefine travel in the coming months and years.
This will be an important event that is free and open to any registrants. Please click here to sign up.
State of the State
Like many of you, I watched Gov. Ige's annual State of the State Address. While I had hoped for more in-depth plans and indications for what the future will hold, I could not help but agree with the overall tenor of his message that our recovery period will be long, and we must continue our efforts to work together. Now more than ever it is critical for us all to be striving towards the same goals and a return to normalcy.
While I appreciated Gov. Ige's thoughts on the digital marketplace and the need to seek out innovative ways to recover our economy, I remain steadfast in my belief that tourism is the key to our economic recovery, especially in the short term. We were the first industry to bring health and safety standards to the State for their review and approval, and our people are poised to continue to welcome healthy, tested travelers back to our shores.
We know that the COVID-19 vaccine is finally here and the State is already vaccinating thousands of residents. I am highly optimistic that frontline hotel employees will soon be announced as eligible for vaccination. As this process continues to work itself out, some hoteliers were given a COVID-19 allotment questionnaire. If you have any questions regarding this questionnaire or the process, please do not hesitate to contact me at any time.
Mufi's Message - January 15, 2021
This afternoon, HLTA held the first meeting of our Government Affairs Committee. This is a standing committee that traditionally first meets before the opening of the Legislative Session. During our first meeting, we reviewed our 2021 Position Statement which details our current position on a number of issues including, but not limited to, tourism management, tax rates, public safety, and COVID-19-related concerns. The final draft of this document will be posted on our website under the "Advocacy" tab next week Thursday.
We were then joined by Speaker Saiki, House Tourism Chair Onishi, Senator Donovan Dela Cruz, and Senate Tourism Chair Wakai, each of whom discussed their legislative priorities for the year and fielded questions from committee members. It was an extremely productive first meeting, and we are looking looking forward to future sessions.
AHLA Insights Webinar
The American Hotel & Lodging Association has announced an upcoming webinar that may be of interest to you. The event will feature AHLA's first-ever State of the Industry Report and is scheduled for Thursday, January 21 at 3 p.m. EST. Scheduled to speak are the following individuals:
This is a great opportunity to get better acquainted with the national level issues facing our industry. AHLA’s Chip Rogers and I have been discussing various ways for our two organizations to collaborate in this toughest of years for our industry nationally and locally. To learn more about the event and to register, please please click here.
EAT THINK DRINK
This past Tuesday evening, HLTA partnered with the Hawai'i Agricultural Foundation to host a riveting episode of HAF's popular EAT THINK DRINK series. My deepest mahalo to all of you who were able to join us for this wonderfully informative event.
After short remarks from TZ Economics' Paul Brewbaker and yours truly, viewers were treated to an in-depth discussion led by Senate Tourism Chair Glenn Wakai. The panelists, which included Central Pacific Bank Executive Chairman Paul Yonamine, Kualoa Ranch President John Morgan, Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club General Manager Lynette Eastman, and Alaska Airlines Director of Sales, Community & Public Relations Daniel Chun, each brought a wealth of diverse experience and insights to the table and really shined a light on a variety of issues facing our industry.
In the video above, you will find a complete replay of the event that has been provided courtesy of the Hawai'i Agricultural Foundation. Below, you will find the recent promotional segment that aired on Living 808.
Have a great weekend,
Mufi's Message - January 13
Yesterday afternoon, members of the Hawai'i Tourism & Business Coalition met with Mayor Blangiardi and Managing Director Michael Formby to continue our dialogue now that Mayor Blangiardi has been officially installed as our City's mayor. It was an especially productive conversation that gave us great insight into the direction his administration will take in the coming months as it pertains to our economic recovery. He was also eager to hear our views on how we felt about aspects of the economy as well as public health and safety priorities that we want to collaborate on with the City.
This afternoon, HLTA will join HTA and HVCB in co-sponsoring our first meeting with Mayor Blangiardi that is open to HLTA board members. This is another opportunity to build a positive working relationship with the mayor and his administration as the meeting will provide a forum not only to share our mana'o and our concerns, but also to just talk story with Honolulu's leader for the next four years.
These early weeks of Mayor Blangiardi's first term have been extremely encouraging in terms of the openness and availability he has shown the leaders and stakeholders of the tourism industry. We are off to a good start.
Yesterday morning, the HTA, HLTA, HVCB ongoing forum with our county mayors had its January session with Mayor Victorino. We appreciate the mayor’s willingness to meet on a regular basis with our industry. Another frank exchange occurred with the mayor and his staff fielding questions from our stakeholders.
Later in the day, Mayor Victorino submitted a proposal to Governor Ige requesting further rule changes for his county. These include:
Mufi's Message - January 11, 2021
EAT THINK DRINK
Tomorrow, January 12 at 6 p.m., the Hawai'i Lodging & Tourism Association will partner with the Hawai'i Agricultural Foundation to host the latest episode of HAF's extremely popular EAT THINK DRINK series. This online event will turn a keen focus upon the direction of our local tourism industry and will feature industry stakeholders who will be touching upon the difficult questions with which our industry's leaders must grapple:
"How do we reshape tourism to keep our economy going while making sure we maintain livable communities?"
"How can we innovate our existing industries such as agriculture with new technology, and create new programs to attract remote workers?"
"Is it finally time to diversify our economy away from tourism?"
Following our opening remarks, there will be an in-depth discussion panel that will include the following individuals:
COVID-19 Case Count
We continue to see a troubling rise in new COVID-19 cases around the state. Over the past seven days, we've averaged 175 new, confirmed cases per day. Two weeks prior to that, our seven-day average hovered around the 120 mark. Two months ago, it was 105. As I noted in my most recent communication to you, it is clear that the majority of these new cases can be traced back to community spread rather than travelers to Hawai'i. In this regard, I must commend the efforts of those of you in the lodging industry for not only installing effective standards, but also holding your staffs and your guests accountable these guidelines. Your diligence is the reason that our industry can confidently state that we are not the cause of this most recent flare up of COVID-19.
That being said, it is clear that local residents need to buckle down. The last thing we want to see is stay-at-home orders or other stringent mandates put in place by our elected officials. We cannot afford another shutdown so I am asking you to please reiterate to every member of your staff that our livelihoods depends upon us and us alone. Encourage them to continue to social distance, wear their masks, limit the size of any gatherings, and practice good hygiene.
We are mere months away from widespread dissemination of the COVID-19 vaccine, and we must continue to remain vigilant in the meantime.
Mufi's Message - January 8
US Capitol Riot
I know you were as appalled as I was by Wednesday’s mob violence at the Capitol. Anyone who believes in the ideals of America and our democracy would be dismayed and offended by what disrupted our elected representatives from dutifully approving the results of our election and the peaceful transition of Presidential authority.
It is to the great credit of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the Congressional staff, that despite the melee that forced them to retreat temporarily to secure quarters, they reconvened to complete their business and unequivocally affirmed that the People have elected Joe Biden as the 46th President of our great nation.
The criminal act by some reckless individuals, irresponsibly encouraged by the President himself, far exceeded the Constitutional right to freedom of speech and assembly. It has shaken the nation as well as other democracies and has prompted much finger-pointing and soul-searching.
We all should love and respect our country. We have been blessed with freedoms and rights unrivaled in the world. Let’s hold the offenders accountable, put this ugly incident behind us, and move forward together as one to unite our citizenry and rebuild our nation. We need a little more Aloha and less rancor, racism, and divisiveness in our communities. Let’s hope and pray that 2021 will bring a renewed sense of faith, hope, and optimism into the lives of all Americans.
COVID-19 Case Count
The recent spike in new COVID-19 cases has caused renewed discussion regarding the need for further restrictions to mitigate spread of the virus around our state. While these new positive cases are concerning, data collected by the State Department of Health indicates that these new clusters are almost entirely driven by community spread. Moreover, the vast majority of travel-related cases are tied to Hawai'i residents who have recently visited the mainland and returned having been infected.
These findings were recently reiterated in the press by numerous elected officials including Mayor Victorino and Speaker Saiki. Even though several COVID-19 vaccines have been approved and are already being distributed throughout our state, it is incumbent on each of us to stay the course, social distance, limit the size of our gatherings, and wear our masks. We cannot lose sight of the goal now.
I do commend Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi for not reacting to this recent spike in cases rashly and enacting further restrictions on our community. Thus far, he has indicated that no further restrictions are coming for O'ahu.
Statewide COVID-19 Policy
Speaker Saiki also recently appeared on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser's Spotlight Hawaii with House Majority Leader Della Au Belatti and covered a number of topics including the House's intention to introduce legislation that would enact a statewide travel policy. During the segment, he remarked that our economy is a statewide economy and that travel and tourism plays a large role in said economy. As such, having sole counties that have different rules, or opt out of the Safe Travels program entirely, is problematic and represents further obstacles that would turn away prospective travelers.
Recent polling of travelers on Kaua'i supports this sentiment. Upwards of 80% of respondents indicated that Kaua'i will not be competitive with the other islands in any scenario outside of the Safe Travels program. A similar number of people indicated that the Garden Isle's quarantine requirements would lead to them opting to travel elsewhere.
Speaker Saiki also indicated that the Legislature will be looking to pass legislation that would levy a fine against individuals who have defied COVID-19 mandates- much like a parking ticket. This is a concept that I proposed several months ago that would give the government the ability to enforce policies like mask mandates and limits on gathering size in a way that would encourage locals to wash their hands, wear their masks, and watch their distance.
I have long said that it is important for us as an industry to consistently sing from the same hymn book when it comes to policy. Now more than ever, we need to look at coalescing behind a single plan of action, and we should be open to reviewing and supporting Speaker Saiki's planned legislation that would help us to achieve this.
Stay in the know
Keep up with HLTA through our blog! Let us know what you think in the comment box below each post.