I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. There were plenty of events happening across the state in honor of our veterans, including the lantern floating ceremony at Ala Moana Beach Park, the 2017 Vietnam 50 Years Memorial parade in Waikiki, and the state and city Memorial Day ceremony at Punchbowl. Bottom line is that we cannot say mahalo enough to the million plus service men and women who lost their lives so that we can enjoy the freedom and liberties that we enjoy today as Americans, as well as express our on-going gratitude and appreciation to our active military personnel and their families who protect and defend us every day throughout the face of the earth!
On Friday, a different kind of tribute took place in honor of the legendary Hawaiian musician Gabby “Pops” Pahinui. As many know, Pahinui paved the way for the Hawaiian slack-key guitar and penned a slew of hits that are now Hawaiian classics, such as Hi’ilawe, Lei Nani, and Mauna Loa. Though his music will already carry him through generations, a 7-foot statue that has now been added to a collection of Hawaiian music legends in Waikiki Beach Walk will allow all to remember him forever. The tribute included live kanikapila music with various Hawaiian artists and a reflection of Pahinui’s life through talk-story videos and audio stories. Congratulations to Outrigger's Barbara Campbell for leading the charge to bring this fitting tribute of "Pops" to Waikiki.
If you were at the beach this weekend, you may have noticed the shores were covered in water due to the King Tides. This year, the tides are much higher than usual due to a combination of high lunar tides, rising sea levels related to climate change and last year’s El Niño, ocean eddies, and a strong south swell. Reports showed that some areas experienced tides as high as 3.1 feet on Friday evening. Kudos to all the hotels and businesses that heeded warnings and prepared for the coastal flooding.
While King Tides routinely return to Hawaii a few times a year, this year broke records and is expected to become the new normal as time goes on. Thus, it is imperative that our industry remains proactive on this issue. The next king tides in Hawaii are expected around June 23-24 and July 21-22. HLTA plans to hold an educational symposium on this topic to continue the discussion on elevated water levels and reevaluating policies and practices in preparation for the future.
Finally the City and County of Honolulu is finalizing their budget for the fiscal year. As we are well aware, the mayor had asked the City Council to go along with him to raise the real property tax rate for the hotel and resort classification. Resolution 17-70, in part, sought to increase the real property tax rate for hotels and resorts by a margin of 50 cents per $1,000, a raise that took place a mere 3 years ago.
After much discussion and consideration the Budget Committee went with the recommendation of its Chair Joey Monahan to hold off on the proposed tax increase this year on a 4-0 vote. I have mentioned it several times and will continue to emphasize the point that this is truly a big victory for the visitor industry, and it would not have been possible without the support and testimonies from HLTA’s members. In fact, members of the City Council have said that this is the most they have ever heard from individuals, organizations, and properties of HLTA.
With that being said, "it ain't over till it's over," as the newly amended CD2 heads to the full 9 member council for a floor vote on Wednesday, June 7th. We cannot relax and afford to be complacent. It is vital that we maintain our strong voice at this final reading and express our support for the Budget Committee's decision to reject the City administration's proposal for a tax increase. We urge you to submit testimony to the full council by June 6th. Should you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact myself or Jared Higashi at (808) 923-0407.
Hawai‘i Lodging and Tourism Association's youngest committee is now on the island of Kaua‘i. Hospitality’s Young Professional & Entrepreneurs (HYPE) is the first neighbor-island chapter geared for the millennial generation.
HYPE Kaua‘i made its official debut on Thursday, May 18, 2017, with a launch party at RumFire Poipu Beach, featuring door prizes, pupus and cocktails at Sheraton Kauai Resort’s signature oceanfront restaurant. The launch party welcomed over 80 young professionals from around the island who came to network and learn more about HYPE’s newest chapter. The HYPE Kaua‘i committee would like to send a warm mahalo to Chip Bahouth, general manager and proud supporter of the inaugural event.
HYPE Kaua‘i will have two events monthly, an informal Meet Up on the third Tuesday of every month and a planned event geared toward networking, professional development workshops or community service. HYPE membership is open and free to anyone under age 40 who is employed by an HLTA member in good standing, regardless of his or her position in the company. HYPE is also free to Kauai Community College students enrolled in the HOST and Culinary programs. All young professionals – not just those who work directly with the hotel industry – are encouraged to join.
Mahalo plenty to all the volunteers and participants who helped make our 39th annual Charity Walk a fun and successful event for all! Over six thousand participants took to the streets of Waikiki this past Saturday for the 39th annual Charity Walk, raising roughly $440,000 for Oahu non-profit organizations. With the totals from the Kauai, Hawaii Island, Maui, Molokai, and Lanai Charity Walks, we raised over $2.2 million for Hawaii’s non-profit organizations.
The Oahu walk started with light breakfast by Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa, zumba warmups, and a countdown by Guy Hagi and Stephanie Lum of Hawaii News Now. Once the walkers got going, they were treated to food and entertainment throughout a 5-mile course starting from Ala Moana Beach Park through Kalakaua Avenue and back. Food selections at checkpoints along the route included Kalua pork sliders, fried rice, spam musubi, mini Acai bowls, watermelon, chocolate, cookies, and more. At the end of the walk, participants enjoyed a chilidog plate lunch prepared by the Kyo- Ya family of employees . There was music by Jason Laeha, and door prizes. Emcees led by Salem Media's Honorary Chair Dita Holifield included Sam Kapu, Sistah Sherry, and Brother Bulla Eastman who entertained the crowd and announced door prizes.
On May 17, 2017, 8 hotels were recognized for their stellar sustainable efforts at the 2017 Hawaii Green Business Program Awardees Recognition Ceremony, held at the Ceremonial Room in the State Capitol by Governor Ige.
The State’s Hawaii Green Business Program assists and recognizes businesses that strive to operate in an environmentally, culturally and socially responsible manner. As a partnership between the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association, the state’s Department of Health, Dept. of Business, Economic Development and Tourism’s Hawaii State Energy Office, Board of Water Supply and with the support of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, the program recognizes businesses that are committed to going green by implementing energy and resource environment, the businesses are also collectively contributing to Hawaii’s energy efficiency goal.
Congratulations to the following awardees!
Back in August, HLTA recognized 22 properties for completing a checklist of Hawaii Green Business Program’s ten entry-level green actions. These actions addressed sustainability categories including energy conservation, water conservation, solid waste reduction and recycling, and pollution prevention.
Lastly, I would like to call attention to the significant progress we were able to achieve at the Honolulu City Council in regards to Resolution 17-70. To refresh you on this budget committee measure, Resolution 17-70 sought to implement new real property tax rates for the City & County of Honolulu where the hotel and resort classification were to be one of two classes raised and by a margin of 50 cents per $1,000. Last week during the Honolulu City Council Budget Committee meeting we personally testified and after much deliberations the committee went with a recommendation to withhold increases this year to the hotel and resort classification.
I would like to commend and thank Budget Chair Joey Manahan for his leadership in this endeavor and also thank those on the Budget Committee that voted for this recommendation. Mahalo to Council Vice Chair Ikaika Anderson, Budget Vice Chair Brandon Elefante, and Council Member Kymberly Pine.
This is a great victory for us thus far and I would like to thank all of you who heeded the call and submitted testimony throughout the last council and committee hearings. Members of the City Council have said that this is the most they have ever heard from individuals, organizations, and properties of HLTA.
With that being said we are still not out of the woods as the newly amended CD2 heads to the full council for a floor vote on June 7th. We would like to ask that you once again submit your testimonies in supporting the new draft of Resolution 17-70 which takes the hotel and resort real property tax increase off the table. We will send you a reminder as we get close to the full Council meeting in June.
Over six thousand participants took to the streets of Waikiki on Saturday, May 20 for the 39th annual Charity Walk, raising roughly $440,000 for Oahu non-profit organizations. Throughout the month of May, Charity Walks were held on Kauai, Hawaii Island, Maui, Molokai, and Lanai. The combined funds raised from all of the State’s Walks as of this date totaled over $2.2 million.
“Mahalo plenty to all the volunteers and participants who helped make our 39th annual Charity Walk a fun and successful event for all. Last year our State reached $2 million on the day of the Oahu Walk, and by the end of the collection period we raised over $2.2 million for 346 charities. Today we reached over $2.2 million, and I’m confident that with the donations continuing to roll in we’re going to exceed last year's overall total easily this year,” said Mufi Hannemann, President & CEO of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association, which sponsors the Charity Walk.
The Oahu walk started with light breakfast by Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa, zumba warmups, and a countdown by Guy Hagi and Stephanie Lum of Hawaii News Now. Once the walkers got going, they were treated to food and entertainment throughout a 5-mile course starting from Ala Moana Beach Park through Kalakaua Avenue and back. Food selections at checkpoints along the route included Kalua pork sliders, fried rice, spam musubi , mini Acai bowls, watermelon, chocolate, cookies, and more. At the end of the walk, participants enjoyed a chilidog plate lunch, music by Jason Laeha, and door prizes. Emcees led by Salem Media's Honorary Chair Dita Holifield included Sam Kapu, Sistah Sherry, and Brother Bulla Eastman entertained the crowd and announced door prizes.
Congratulations to Kauai, Hawaii Island, and Maui for each raising record funds at their Charity Walks last weekend! Kauai brought in over $275,000; Hawaii Island raised nearly $300,000, and Maui raised an astonishing $1,087,000. With walks on Molokai and Lanai bringing in $33,654 and $38,390 respectively on May 6, Maui County raised a total of $1,159,053.
The 39th annual Charity Walk wraps up with Oahu’s walk this Saturday, May 20, 2017 at the Ala Moana McCoy Pavilion. The walk will begin at 7 a.m. and circle through a 5-mile course in Waikiki. Walkers will be treated to food and entertainment before the walk, along the route, and at the end of the walk to make for a day full of fun, food, and fundraising for deserving non-profit organizations. Oahu’s Celebrity Charity Walk Chairpersons this year are Guy Hagi and Stephanie Lum of Hawaii News Now, and Dita Holifield of Salem Media.
Last year the Charity Walk raised over $2.2 million statewide. With one weekend to go and $1.7 million raised thus far, our 2017 Charity Walk Co-Chairs Scott Ingwers and Greg Nelson's goal is to raise $500,000 to help exceed last year's statewide total. You can still register online if you haven’t already by clicking the link here.
Congratulations to Kelly Hoen on her new position as area general manager of the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort and Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort! Kelly has been an active board member of HLTA which included a successful stint as the Chair of our organization. I’d also like to welcome and congratulate Douglas Rucker who has been appointed as managing director of The MODERN Honolulu.
In other news, HLTA’s inaugural Ho’okipa Scholarships have been presented to students Melanie Matsunaga of Kauai High School, Sharmaine Domingo of Maui High School, and Tien Thi Kim Nguyen of Kaimuki High School. The $1000 scholarships were given to students studying in their high school’s Academy of Hospitality and Tourism, and plan to major in hospitality during their college career.This will be an annual award that will be rotated among all participating Hospitality Academies in the coming years.
Congratulations to the HLTA Maui Chapter and Maui Hotel & Lodging Association for successful Charity Walks this past weekend on Lanai and Molokai! Lanai raised $38,390 and Molokai raised $33,654 for their island’s charities. The Charity Walk is heading to Maui, Hawaii Island, and Kauai this weekend on May 13, and then to Oahu on May 20.
This year, our media sponsors are Salem Media and Hawaii News Now, and each County will have a Hawaii News Now reporter or anchor as their Charity Walk Honorary Chair! Reporters Chelsea Davis and Ashley Nagaoka will represent Maui and Kauai, respectively; Sunrise Feature Reporter Billy V. will represent Hawaii Island; and Sunrise Weather Anchor Guy Hagi will represent Oahu with News Anchor Stephanie Lum. Dita Holifield of Salem Media will represent their radio stations as an Honorary Chair on Oahu. Each will make a special appearance at their respective walks, and have been promoting the Charity Walk on air and on social media.
On Oahu, HLTA will be having a Charity Walk rally this Thursday, May 11 at the Sheraton Waikiki Resort – Maui Ballroom between 1pm and 3pm. There will be music, light refreshments, and an opportunity to pick up walker stamp cards, drop off cash and check donations, and even register for the walk on-site. Please stop by to show your Charity Walk pride!
We also want to congratulate Lisalani Baybayan, our Na Poʻe Paʻahana Outstanding Lodging Employee for becoming a North Star Award finalist at AH&LA’s Stars of the Industry Awards program. The AH&LA Stars of the Industry awards program recognizes outstanding employee accomplishments and properties on the industry's biggest stage. The winner of the North Star Award, given to the industry's most outstanding employee, will be announced at the 2017 Stars of the Industry Ceremony on May 17, 2017. Since 2000, Hawaii has been fortunate to have eight national stars of the industry winners, with the most recent being Leticia Gamiao, a housekeeper at the then-Aqua Waikiki Wave, who won national recognition as Outstanding Lodging Employee of the Year in 2010.
Lisalani is a Regency Club Concierge at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, who captured the title of Outstanding Lodging Employee this year at HLTA’s Na Po‘e Pa‘ahana awards for her personal acts of aloha. She is known to crochet luggage tags for guests and pick up mail boxes for visitors without transportation. Lisalani has also volunteered with the Charity Walk for over 25 years. We wish her the best of luck next week and hope she will bring home the title.
Watch a recap by RKT Media of the Citizen-Scholar Awards below!
Forty-two seniors from public high schools across the Hawaiian Islands each received $1,000 scholarships for their post-graduate educations at the 13th annual Citizen-Scholar Awards, a partnership of the HLTA, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, and Department of Education. The presentations were made at a luncheon held at The MODERN Honolulu on April 27. Mahalo to The MODERN Honolulu and all the HLTA members who sponsored a student, especially those who have participated in this worthy cause every year!
The students were selected by the Department of Education for scholastic achievements and school and community service. Each must have a minimum 3.2 grade point average and an extensive record of school and public service.
This year, the HLTA introduced four additional $2,500 scholarships that were awarded to the top student from each of the state’s four counties. The recipients were Jaccie Hisashima of King Kekaulike High School on Maui, Lester Iwata of Waiakea High School on Hawai‘i Island, Truman Spring of Kahuku High School on O‘ahu, and Grace Yatsko of Kapa‘a High School on Kauai. The students were selected by an HLTA committee.
Jaccie Hisashima, Maui
Over the course of her schooling at Kekaulike, Jaccie Hisashima has devoted over a thousand hours of service to others. She is the student body president, as well as a member of the Key Club, STEM Club, tennis team, and a taiko group. Hisashima also returns every year to her elementary school to volunteer for events such as Read Aloud America and Pumpkin Math Night, where she teaches younger students STEM subjects. Hisashima will attend Chapman University starting Fall 2017.
Lester Iwata, Hawai‘i Island
Lester Iwata has been involved in community service since the beginning of his high school career at Waiakea. He is a Key Club member, Student Government Association secretary, and a varsity baseball athlete. Iwata is currently working on a project using computer drafting programs to draw a three-dimensional model of the Hokualaka‘i voyaging canoe. By using his STEM skills, Iwata hopes to educate the community on the history of the canoe and promote Hawaiian culture. Iwata will attend the University of Portland beginning this Fall.
Truman Spring, Oahu
Truman Spring of Kahuku High School is the vice president of his school’s National Honor Society, captain of the Kahuku Speech & Debate team, vice president of the Drama Club, and captain of a soccer club. He is a History Day competitor who has placed in the top 10 nationally for four years, including a first-place finish. When several students from his community lacked the financial resources to compete in National History Day in Washington, D.C., a few years ago, Spring helped get the students to the competition by successfully obtaining a youth leadership grant that required 275 students to participate in 1,000 hours of service through community environmental sustainability projects. Spring will attend Brigham Young University – Provo starting this Fall.
Grace Yatsko, Kaua‘i
Grace Yatsko is president of her school’s Interact Club, member of the Civics Club, student representative for the Kapa‘a High School PTSA, and part of the National Honor Society. Yatsko also has extensive experience in volunteering with youth; she tutors first graders at Kapa‘a Elementary School, works part-time as a teacher’s aide at All Saints Preschool, and has served as a Ke Akua Youth Group leader and Sunday school teacher at her church. When a psychiatric rehabilitation organization called Friendship House was burglarized, Yatsko wrote an editorial in the local newspaper to help raise money for the organization and successfully raised nearly $500. Yatsko will attend Colorado State University starting this Fall.
A complete list of the 2017 Citizen-Scholar Award recipients follows:
Admiral Arthur W. Radford High School
Aiea High School
Sheraton Princess Kaiulani
Governor Wallace Rider Farrington High School
Regine Louisa Ramos
The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort
Hana High & Elementary School
Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa
Henry J. Kaiser High School
The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel
Henry Perrine Baldwin High School
International Market Place
Hilo High School
Castle Resorts & Hotels
Honoka`a High School
Ken's House of Pancakes
James B. Castle High School
James Campbell High School
Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach
Ka`u High School
UH Manoa, School of Travel Industry Management
Kahuku High & Intermediate School
Kailua High School
Trump International Hotel Waikiki
Kaimuki High School
Ala Moana Hotel
Kalaheo High School
Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa
Kalani High School
Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
Kapa`a High School
Kapolei High School
Kaua‘i High School
Danica Marielle Ola
Hawai`i Lodging & Tourism Association - Kauai Chapter
Kea‘au High School
Ruby Kate Galapon
Kealakehe High School
Hawai`i Lodging & Tourism Association - Hawaii Island Chapter
King Kekaulike High School
Maui Hotel & Lodging Association
Kohala High School
Mauna Kea Resort
Konawaena High School
Hale Koa Hotel
Lahainaluna High School
Marriott's Maui Ocean Club
Lanai High School
Leilehua High School
Sheraton Waikiki Resort
Maui High School
Mililani High School
Pacific Beach Hotel
Moanalua High School
Moloka‘i High School
Nanakuli High School
Hawaiian Electric Companies
Pahoa High & Intermediate School
Big Island Candies
Pearl City High School
Outrigger Enterprises Group
President Theodore Roosevelt High School
Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa
President William McKinley High School
First Hawaiian Bank
Waiakea High School
KTA Super Stores
Waialua High & Intermediate School
Waianae High School
Waimea High School
Waipahu High School
Andrea Lyn Mateo
Halekulani & Waikiki Parc Hotel
On Friday, the State House of Representatives surprised everyone with a last-minute proposal to raise the Transient Accommodations Tax revenue to fund the Honolulu rail project and education. To be clear, we are not opposed to rail or to improvements to our public education system; however, we believe that this tax should not be targeted solely at the tourism industry.
This proposal to amend Senate Bill 1183 came at the eleventh hour during conference committee and provided no opportunity for the public to provide input or testimony as is the case when bills are heard, particularly when of this magnitude and impact.
The proposed tax increase would raise our 9.25 percent TAT to 12 percent, a 30 percent hike that is unprecedented for our industry. The proposed TAT in combination with the General Excise Tax (GET) would impose a 16.7 percent tax on visitors and residents who patronize our accommodations, adding to Hawaii’s unfortunate reputation as one of the most expensive places to visit. With the proposed tax increase, Hawaii would surpass New York City (16.5 percent), Los Angeles (15.8 percent), and Miami Beach (14.0 percent), on the list of highest lodging tax rates in the nation. San Francisco is only marginally higher at 16.8 percent. This puts us at a competitive disadvantage that could lead to fewer visitors and less visitor spending, and cause a ripple effect that may negatively impact small businesses in our community.
To remain competitive, it is likely that hotels will not pass the increased tax on to guests and instead absorb some of the burden, ultimately leading to staffing cutbacks.
Though Hawaii’s visitor industry is strong right now, there are growing signs of a tourism downturn on the horizon. With the TAT being a highly volatile and much smaller revenue source than the GET, it would be unwise to depend solely on the hotel room tax to fund the city project. On the other hand, the GET is a much fairer tax as it is paid by both residents, who will largely benefit from rail, as well as visitors.
We are strongly urging the legislature to reject Senate Bill 1183 and encourage you all to submit opposing testimony as well. For more information on how to reach your legislators, please contact our Director of Government Affairs Jared Higashi at email@example.com.
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