Mufi's Message - March 1, 2021
HLTA's Restaurant, Food & Beverage and Agricultural Committee will hold the second episode of its inaugural webinar series tomorrow at 4 p.m.
This free event entitled, Advocacy 101, will explore how a critical part of Hawai‘i’s hospitality industry can work together to become a stronger voice and resource of information for both our policy makers and the community as a whole. This episode will feature key industry leaders and stakeholders who will examine the following:
I hope to see you there!
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser's editorial staff issued a new piece this morning that echoes some of the statements that I have been making not only about the pandemic, but also on our path forward as we continue to deal and manage this health crisis successfully and transition to a more robust economic recovery phase. Outrigger’s Jeff Wagoner, who offered some excellent observations during the Spotlight forum that he and I participated in, was also quoted in the editorial.
"Editorial: Making tourism more enlightened," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, March 2, 2021
Also in the Star-Advertiser yesterday was the first installment of a two-article series that featured different local leaders and their reflections on the past year that has seen our community struggle with a pandemic and an unprecedented economic downturn. You can read, in their own words, insights from individuals like Gov. David Ige, Lt. Gov. Josh Green, as well as others including yours truly.
"A year of COVID-19: Key leaders in Hawaii’s pandemic response recall the challenges they faced," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, February 28, 2021
*The second installment of the series will be posted later today.
You may have heard late last week that the American Hotel & Lodging Association began a nationwide campaign to urge governors to classify all hospitality workers in Phase-1B of the vaccination schedule, and New York quickly announced that the state's hotel workers would be moved up in the vaccination schedule.
On Saturday, HLTA Chair Cheryl Williams, most recent past Chair Michael Jokovich, and I sent a letter to Gov. Ige that notified him of the AHLA campaign, the resulting NY decision, and reiterated our request to have our people moved up in the State's vaccination schedule. As you are aware, John De Fries and I are engaged in substantive ongoing discussions with the Department of Health on this matter of extreme importance to our industry here.
Safe Travels Program
Our offices were recently notified that hotels and ground transportation services have begun reaching out to the Office of the Attorney General to clarify a traveler's status. We have been asked to relay to you that all inquiries of this nature should instead be routed to the Safe Travels Digital Platform Technical Service Desk.
The phone number for this desk is: 1-855-599-0888
They are open from 10 a.m. through 10 p.m., and any calls outside of these hours will be able to leave a voicemail. They will be able to remotely screen the traveler.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our offices at any time.
Mufi's Message - February 25, 2021
House Bill 1286
Today, the House Finance Committee heard House Bill 1286, HD2. After extensive testimony, the measure was passed by the committee. As we expected, there was some opposition to the measure with Representatives Bertrand Kobayashi, Tina Wildberger, and Amy Perruso voting against the bill. However, the vast majority of the House Finance Committee expressed their support with a vote of 12 ayes and 3 nos. This bill will now be sent to the House floor for third reading before crossing over to the Senate for further consideration.
I truly appreciate how active and responsive our members and industry partners have been throughout the legislative process thus far. You have submitted numerous iterations of written testimony and many have also provided oral testimony in support of this measure. Mahalo to the following individuals who were able to testify via Zoom during today's committee hearing:
As the HB1286, HD2 travels to the Senate, we anticipate the second half of the legislative process to be a challenging task. We will continue to keep you abreast of any developments as they occur and encourage your ongoing participation in our advocacy efforts.
As you may have heard, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recently clarified its vaccine prioritization to include the "Traveler Accommodation" category in Phase-1C. We are pleased that, after working closely with AHLA, the CDC has made this amendment to protect the countless hospitality workers who are currently working during a pandemic throughout the nation.
On the local front, HLTA has been working closely with the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority and the Hawai‘i State Department of Health on the process in which our hospitality workers will be scheduled for vaccination. We have been assured that our industry members would start vaccinations in the 1C category at the very least, and some may actually start sooner than that depending on the available supply.
As it currently stands, Hawai‘i is in Phase-1B of the vaccination schedule.
Yesterday, Outrigger President & CEO Jeff Wagoner and I joined the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for its ongoing Spotlight Hawai'i series to discuss a number of topics currently surrounding the local tourism industry. In addition to providing an update on the current state of affairs for the local travel industry, Jeff and I were able to discuss a number of topics including statewide travel rules and the possibility of Hawai'i establishing a vaccine passport program that would allow vaccinated travelers to be exempt from the quarantine process.
It was a great discussion that you can watch in its entirety by clicking the video above.
The Big Picture
The second episode of a special, two-part series of webinars hosted by HLTA's Restaurant, Food & Beverage and Agricultural Committee will be held next Tuesday, March 2 at 4 p.m.
Hosted by our Restaurant, Food & Beverage and Agricultural Committee, this free event entitled, Advocacy 101, will explore how a critical part of Hawai‘i’s hospitality industry can work together to become a stronger voice and resource of information for our policy makers and the community. This episode will feature key industry leaders and stakeholders who will examine the following:
Hope to see you there!
Mufi's Message - February 19, 2021
As you probably know, HLTA's government affairs arm has been extremely busy at the Legislature over the past few weeks. We have provided testimony on a number of bills and wanted to provide you a brief update as today is the legislative body's first lateral.
This was an extremely pressing issue that would have disproportionately affected local hotels that were forced to furlough workers due to the pandemic. Because the unemployment insurance fund has been depleted, the State was supposed to be moved to the "H" schedule which would have brought with it the highest rates for employers. HLTA submitted testimony in support of several proposals that would have altered the schedule. Ultimately, we supported House Bill 1278, HD1. This measure, which sets the schedule at "D" for the next two years was supported by the State administration and has been passed by both the House and the Senate.
Income Tax Exemption
Another issue that HLTA has weighed in on was the need for clear language that would exempt unemployment compensation from the state income tax. Thousands of people who have been furloughed would have been affected by this come tax season. We offered testimony in support of Senate Bill 614 which was passed by the Senate Committee on Culture & the Arts, but must still be heard by Ways & Means.
Commercial Rent Relief
We have also weighed in on commercial rent relief measures that would provide relief not only to landlords, but also to tenants in commercial spaces. You may recall that HLTA supported a similar measure at the Honolulu City Council late last year. The Senate Committee on Commerce & Consumer Protection passed out Senate Bill 946, SD1, which also passed second reading. The measure must now be heard by Ways & Means.
I have been an outspoken proponent of the need for our government to establish parking ticket-like fines for those who knowingly refuse to wear their masks in public. In the past, these individuals were given misdemeanor citations which required that the offender go to court. This led to thousands of these citations being thrown out and local law enforcement being left to enforce a mandate without teeth. We have strongly supported House Bill 726 which must finally be heard by the House Finance Committee before being sent to the Senate.
Statewide Travel Rules
Yesterday, the House Committee on the Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs passed House Bill 1286 which would establish statewide travel rules. As you know, this measure was submitted by Speaker Saiki, and we have been pressing for its passage. Many of our local hoteliers and industry partners submitted written testimony and testified at the hearing. Mahalo to each of you- the committee passed the measure which must now be heard by the House Finance Committee.
The Big Picture
The Hawai'i Lodging & Tourism Association is pleased to announce the first episode of a special, two-part series of webinars will be held on February 23 at 4 p.m. at no cost to for viewers.
Hosted by our new Restaurant, Food, Beverage & Agricultural Committee, the inaugural episode will feature a discussion panel that will examine a critical part of Hawai‘i’s hospitality industry that works to bring aloha to visitors and locals every day. Aptly entitled "The BIG Picture – Hawai‘i’s Restaurant, Food, Beverage and Agriculture Sectors," the panel will bring together key industry leaders and stakeholders who will:
The webinar will be kicked off with remarks from HLTA President & CEO Mufi Hannemann as well as T S Restaurants Vice President of Operations and Restauraunt, Food, Beverage, & Agriculture Committee co-Chair Dylan Ching. The discussion panel will be moderated by Hawaii Agriculture Foundation Chairman Dean Okimoto and will include the following panelists:
This event has limited space, so please register as soon as possible. You may visit the registration page by clicking the graphic above, or by clicking here.
We sincerely hope that you will be able to join us!
Many of you have been reaching out to our offices for more information on the status of the State's vaccination schedule as well as hospitality workers' place in said schedule. Although we are currently experiencing delays due to the winter storms occurring on the mainland, I want to reassure you- we are in a good place. I have been in ongoing meetings with HTA President & CEO John de Fries and the Department of Health as to what the process will entail when we start vaccinating our people.
While it may feel like we are stuck in a holding pattern, our request has been made, and the State is doing its due diligence to address it. Please use this time to prepare your internal procedures and priority lists for the vaccine distribution.
If you have any further questions or concerns, feel free to email me at any time.
Mufi's Message - February 12, 2021
COVID-19 Banner Campaign
Yesterday, HLTA joined Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, the Waikiki Business Improvement District Association, the Waikiki Improvement Association, and the Honolulu Police Department at a press conference announcing the installation of 36 lamppost banners running along Kalakaua Avenue from the Hawai'i Convention Center to Kapahulu Avenue. This was a project that our organization initiated with the Caldwell administration, and we are grateful to our new mayor and his team for helping us to see it through to completion.
"Honolulu officials unveil new banners highlighting rules of COVID-19 safety," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, February 11, 2021
The public health campaign was created to educate and remind both local residents and visitors to mind the three W's: wear your mask; watch your distance; and wash your hands. The banners were largely made possible through CARES Act funding and will remain up for the foreseeable future.
"Health banners along Kalakaua Avenue advocate coronavirus safety," KHON2, February 11, 2021
I was gratified by the initial response that the banners received, especially from our area HPD officers who told me that it would make the enforcement aspect of their duties significantly easier.
"City and County of Honolulu spent thousands of dollars to help educate visitors about Hawaii's COVID-19 mandates," KITV, February 11, 2021
I wanted to send my thanks to all those who were able to attend including: Mayor Blangiardi; Council Chair Tommy Waters; WIA President Rick Egged; WBID President & Executive Director Jennifer Nakayama; and Waikiki Neighborhood Board Chair Robert Finley. A special mahalo is also in order for all of our members, led by Chair Cheryl Williams and Chair-elect Thomas Foti, who were able to join us for yesterday's press conference. It was a show of solidarity that really highlighted how committed our industry is to the health and safety of the greater community.
House Bill 1286
As you may recall, House Bill 1286, which would codify statewide travel rules, was recently heard in a joint hearing of the House Pandemic & Disaster Preparedness and Labor & Tourism Committees. The measure, which also clarifies that travelers who end up testing positive for COVID-19 while in Hawai'i are ultimately responsible for all costs related to their quarantine and isolation periods, was passed out of both committees but drew stout opposition from neighbor island residents, especially those hailing from Kaua'i who submitted written testimony in great numbers.
"Lawmakers explore the idea of unifying pre-travel rules across the counties," Hawaii News Now, February 9, 2021
The measure was introduced by Speaker Scott Saiki and will next be referred to the Judiciary & Hawaiian Affairs Committee. All indications from Committee Chair Mark Nakashima indicate that the bill will be heard on Wednesday afternoon, but the hearing notice has not been posted as of yet. HLTA is already working to procure testimony from key stakeholders as it is critical for our industry to be well-represented at the next hearing with both written and oral testimony.
"Proposal To Scrap Kauai’s Two-Test Protocol For Arriving Travelers Advances," Civil Beat, February 9, 2021
Due to the pandemic, providing oral testimony has never been easier as it can be done via Zoom from the comfort of your home or office. Please visit capitol.hawaii.gov today to register as a testifier. As soon as the committee hearing notice is issued, we will distribute any needed information as well as sample testimony and templates.
"Bill to unify travel rules draws opposition on Kauai," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, February 10, 2021
It is important to get registered now as you must sign up to testify no later than 24 hours prior to the hearing. This will only take a few minutes of your time but could pay dividends for our industry should the measure is passed.
"Proposed bill would establish uniform Safe Travels program across the state," Pacific Business News, February 11, 2021
Jean Pierre Cercillieux, left, and Dennis Maher.
Please join me in bidding a fond farewell to two longtime HLTA members who have recently announced their departures for new opportunities.
First is Jean Pierre Cercillieux who has served as executive vice president and general manager of The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel. JP had decades of experience already under his belt when he returned to Hawai'i to run the Waikiki property back in 1998. Throughout his many years at the helm, JP has been an extremely active member of HLTA's Board of Directors who could always be counted upon to sponsor Kaiser High School through our Citizen Scholar Program. He was a fixture at HLTA events including our General Membership Meeting and was a generous supporter of HOTELPAC.
Also moving on is Trump International Hotel Waikiki's Director of Facilities & Security Dennis Maher who will be pursuing a new venture with the Sullivan Family of Companies. Dennis was both a founding member and past chairperson of our Hawai'i Engineers Advisory Council, one of HLTA's most active committees. Under his leadership, the Council has overseen a number of HLTA projects including the restoration of Kaiser High School's stage as well as the installation of 32 donated air conditioners at Jefferson Elementary School in Waikiki.
It has been a pleasure working with both of these gentlemen, and we wish them both the best in their future endeavors.
Statewide Travel Rules Testimony
The Washington Post recently ran a story that reported on our local travel restrictions and the consequences of said policies. Perhaps most notably, the article highlighted how daunting it can be to navigate the pre-arrival testing and quarantine processes- especially now that there is such a variance from county to county.
“Hawaii wants tourists. Tourists want Hawaii. But the rules are complicated.,” The Washington Post, January 29, 2021
Moreover, the article reaffirmed our industry's general feeling that the process is far too confusing and ultimately turns prospective travelers away from our islands. As you may know, there is a measure currently before the Legislature that would establish and simplify statewide travel rules. This is a concept of which HLTA has been and will continue to be supportive.
House Bill 1286, which was submitted by Speaker Saiki, will be heard tomorrow in a joint hearing of the House Pandemic & Disaster Preparedness and Labor & Tourism Committees. HLTA has already submitted testimony and will continue to monitor this bill's progress. We invite you to submit testimony of your own here.
AlohaSafe Alert is the State's official COVID-19 exposure app that crowdsources and anonymously notifies those who may have unknowingly crossed paths with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Here's how it works:
To learn more, please visit alohasafealert.org.
This week, Lieutenant Governor Josh Green met with members of HLTA's Board of Directors and Government Affairs Committee to discuss his latest proposal that would loosen travel restrictions as more of our local populace is vaccinated against COVID-19. The plan was met with strong support among our members, and we will be actively supportive of it.
During the meeting, Lt. Gov. Green also discussed the State's vaccination efforts and was supportive of our request that the State move hospitality workers to the 1B designation in its schedule in order to get our people safely back to work sooner rather than later.
At the State Legislature, we have been extremely busy advocating for our industry and our community on a variety of fronts.
House Bill 1286 has been scheduled to be heard by the Pandemic & Disaster Preparedness and Labor & Tourism Committees in a joint hearing on Tuesday, February 9 at 8:30 a.m. This measure, which would codify statewide travel, testing, and quarantine rules was submitted by Speaker Scott Saiki and has widespread support in the House. Besides clarifying and simplifying rules for prospective travelers, this measure would also allow travelers who "[submit] to and [obtain] a negative test result from a state-approved rapid COVID-19 test upon arrival" to be exempt from the mandatory 10-day quarantine. As you may remember, this is one of the possible amendments to the Safe Travels program that HLTA had asked Gov. David Ige to consider.
The Outrigger Promise
Yesterday, Outrigger Hotels and Resorts announced a new program under the #OutriggerPromise which guarantees that Outrigger guests will love their stays at Outrigger. If, for some reason they do not, Outrigger has promised to credit the guest for a future stay, on the house.
I cannot think of a single instance where a resort has offered a guarantee like this. It truly speaks to Outrigger President & CEO Jeff Wagoner's confidence in Outrigger's level of customer service and the quality of their product overall. Kudos to Outrigger EVP and Chief Marketing Officer Sean Dee for the creativity and boldness to enact this plan!
Have a great weekend,
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