On Friday morning, Highgate Hotels Senior Vice President of Operations Kelly Sanders and I participated in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser's Spotlight Hawaii series to discuss a variety of topics surrounding the resurgence of travel to the islands including projections for the remainder of the summer season, the current profile of travelers, and recent crime in Waikiki. As expected, a portion of the conversation also touched on the renewed calls for better management of Hawai'i's tourism industry.
“Long before the pandemic, we recognized that it was important to manage tourism better and not put all our eggs in the basket of marketing tourism,” Hannemann said.
“….One lesson that we’ve learned from this pandemic is how totally dependent everyone is on tourism. Like it, loathe it, what have you, but this is the engine that drives our economy. We can continue to pursue economic diversification initiatives and the like, but at the end of the day, especially now, it’ll come back to tourism.”
-HLTA President & CEO Mufi Hannemann, Honolulu Star-Advertiser Spotlight Hawai'i
Kelly, in particular, discussed the significant role that HTA will play in the ongoing recovery of the local tourism industry and the management of tourism moving forward while we both discussed the threats currently facing the State's tourism agency- namely House Bill 862 which was passed during the recent Legislative Session.
Many of our concerns with HB 862 were reiterated in a recent deep dive by the Star-Advertiser's editorial staff who recently delved into some of the more problematic measures passed by the Legislature this year. Key among these were the disruption of HTA's funding and operations at an inopportune time, as well as the decision to strip the counties of their transient accommodations tax (TAT) allocations and replacing it with the option of raising the TAT by an additional 3%.
It was perhaps the publication's most visible call for a veto of HB 862 as we near June 21st the deadline by which Governor Ige must release his intent to veto list.
The news broke in the Star-Advertiser today that the Hawai'i Convention Center lost one of its biggest contracts for the year when the American Association of Orthodontists, which would have brought 17,000 attendees to Honolulu, moved its planned conference to Miami due to the lack of clarity in State and county rules for meetings and conventions.
It is imperative that our government leaders issue clear rules and requirements for this sector of the industry as soon as possible because entities like the convention center, hotels and resorts, and other hosts need adequate time to sell their venue space and coordinate event logistics. This is an issue that we've run into firsthand at HLTA as we navigate the planning process for the Hawai'i Hotel & Restaurant Show.
The Star-Advertiser also ran an article discussing the positive results the film industry is currently experiencing in the islands. I have long said that film and sports initiatives are two specific areas that Hawai'i should always be promoting due to its synergistic relationship with tourism and it’s proven ability to stimulate the economy.
You may recall that the "Temptation Island" reality show was filmed in a resort bubble at the Andaz Maui at Wailea resort under the leadership of Hyatt executive Mike Jokovich to great success. The series will return to the islands this fall to film its next season. Kudos to Maui Mayor Mike Victorino, the State Film Office, and Maui County Film Office Commissioner Tracy Bennett who worked with the ILWU and the IATSE to lead the charge on this front. Our future is bright if we can continue to tap into these industries moving forward.
Each year, our association awards special scholarships to students whose parents are HLTA members. This is a much sought after award that is given to graduating seniors who have been accepted to institutions of higher learning. This year, we made the decision to bestow a $5,000 scholarship to a sole student. However, due to the number and quality of applications that we received during this particularly challenging school year, we have made an exception and provided additional member scholarships to three outstanding students.
Jachob Dolak received the top award of $5,000 this year. A graduate of Saint Louis School, he will attend Notre Dame University in the fall where he intends to study computer science. Jachob's academic record is exemplary- he finished high school with a 4.41 cumulative grade point average and also participated in numerous extracurricular and service-oriented pursuits outside of the classroom. He is pictured above with his mother Cherry and his father Jerry who serves as Hilton's Director of Security and the president of the Hawaii Hotel Visitor Industry Security Association. Jerry has long been a stalwart partner in HLTA's public safety conferences and the various initiatives we have put forth as an association. Following in similar footsteps as his father, Jachob is planning on pursuing a degree in Cyber Security.
Jeremy Peros submitted a similarly excellent application and was awarded a $2,500 scholarship for his achievements. The Maui High School graduate is a National Merit Commended Scholar who maintained a 4.136 GPA and will attend UC Irvine later this year. He is the son of Lorelle, who is the Hospitality & Tourism Program Coordinator at the University of Hawai'i Maui College, and Greg, the hard working general manager of the Maui Beach Hotel. Mother Lorelle is a past recipient of HLTA's Na Po'e Pa'ahana Educator of the Year Award. In addition to his outstanding academic record, athletic pursuits (he excels in hoops), and community service efforts, Jeremy had the distinct honor of being named Big Brother of the Year in April.
Our final 2021 awardee, Liam Caldwell who just graduated from Baldwin High School, was awarded $1,000 for his stellar record. Liam is the son of Eileen Caldwell who is the area director of human resources for Marriott Hotels Hawaii. Liam's teacher wrote him a glowing recommendation that noted his performance in the classroom and the athletic arena along with his community service efforts and student government service. His mother also had him participate annually in Maui's highly successful Visitor Industry Charity Walk. In short, Liam epitomizes what it means to be a well-rounded student leader. He plans to attend Arizona State University in the fall where he plans to study physical sciences, engineering, and technology.
The Sheraton Waikiki, Royal Hawaiian, Moana Surfrider & Princess Ka'iulani Hotels are hosting a career fair on June 24 and 25 at the Sheraton Waikiki Ballrooms from 10 a.m. through 2 p.m. Between the three properties, there are roughly 100 positions currently open.
Please feel free to share this with anybody who may be interested in applying as interviews will be conducted during the job fair. Any questions or concerns may be directed to Kari Nakano who can be reached via email at email@example.com or via phone at 808-931-7770.
Yesterday, HLTA and ClimbHI awarded $1,000 scholarships to two outstanding educators to gain experience in and understanding of our industry. This has been a long standing objective of mine to assist hospitality educators and the teachers who were selected in the first year of this scholarship are exemplary in every sense of the word.
Fern White is a West Hawai'i District Resource Teacher for Career & Technical Education programs on Hawai'i Island. She is a National Board Certified English Language Arts Teacher who has taught guidance, health, physics, computer science, and engineering design. Fern noted in her scholarship application that she intends to learn more about the image of hospitality in Hawai'i and how cultural values are embedded in the industry.
Alyssa Alcos is a teacher at Wai'anae High School where she also advises the school's DECA Club which aims to prepare emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in the areas of marketing, finance, hospitality, and management. For the past two years, Alyssa has served on the board of the Hawai'i Association of Career & Technical Education, an organization that promotes career readiness among the different educational pathways. In her application, Alyssa stated that "if hospitality is about having the love to serve, then hospitality in Hawai'i has got to be about sharing the love of our culture through service. I hope I can continue to perpetuate that in my future curricula."
Mahalo to ClimbHI President & Executive Director Julie Morikawa for her leadership throughout this process. If our first two scholarship recipients are any indication of what is to come regarding hospitality education around our state, the future is clearly bright for both teachers and students.
During the Zoom meeting where the scholarships were presented, Julie shared the above video which was filmed during the early days of the pandemic. ClimbHI worked with the students to provide them background and context as it pertains to the hospitality industry and then created this video for them to share their mana'o. To say that I was impressed by these youth would be an understatement.
Please take a moment to watch the video as it clearly illustrates the power that lies in providing education and insight to our community's future leaders.
You may recall that the Maui County Council is currently considering two measures that would issue moratorium on building permits for hotels for the next two years. One would limit the ban to West and South Maui while the other would cover the entire county.
I wanted to bring to your attention an article from The Maui News that detailed opposition raised by TZ Economic's Paul Brewbaker. The former chief economist for Bank of Hawaii noted especially that the reasoning behind these proposed measures is faulty in that they cite overtourism and growth in the lodging industry. He correctly pointed out that, in the past 30 years, the total room count on Maui has only grown by 3,000 rooms while hotel rooms have actually decreased on Moloka'i. The fastest growing segment of the lodging inventory is in vacation rental units. Brewbaker further echoed the comments in our testimony which highlighted the unseemly timing of these proposals which come just as the lodging industry is getting back on its feet.
Kudos to Paul for his willingness to be frank in his analyses. We need more like him to help us deter further questionable attacks on the lodging industry and tourism as a whole.
For more than the past year, Hawai'i has consistently proven itself to be among the healthiest places to which tourists could travel. Due to a combination of our relatively low incidence of COVID-19 cases and the success of the Safe Travels program, prospective travelers could confidently book their trips here with the peace of mind that they were highly unlikely to be exposed to the virus. Billing ourselves as one of the healthiest destinations in the world piggybacked well with our pre-COVID-19 status as an extremely safe destination to visit.
"Waikiki crime surge risks derailing tourism recovery," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, June 6, 2021
As we grow nearer to a full restoration of the local travel industry, it is critical that we do what is necessary to maintain our reputation as one of the safest tourism destinations in the world. Recent high-profile crimes in the Waikiki area, including two stabbings in a single night, have justly renewed the community's focus on this issue. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser's Sunday edition covered the topic in great detail and quoted key stakeholders including the Honolulu Police Department, Honolulu City Council Chair Tommy Waters, Honolulu Prosecutor Steven Alm, Visitor Aloha Society of Hawai'i President & CEO Jessica Lani Rich, tourism safety expert Peter Tarlow, and myself.
Being that we all shared similar comments and sentiments regarding the recent surge in crime, HLTA will be hosting a mini Visitor Public Safety Conference in two weeks' time to bring together policy makers, law enforcement, business owners, and community stakeholders to discuss these issues and develop action items to address them.
We have had immense success with past iterations of this event, making a measurable difference on issues including homelessness, the late night cabarets in Waikiki, and the need for better lighting and more security cameras throughout the Waikiki district. I am confident that by bringing all of these voices and their decades of experience to the table will yield similar results.
21st Annual Scholarship Golf Tournament
We are excited to announce that we have officially opened registration for HLTA's 21st Annual Scholarship Golf Tournament!
Please join us on August 12 at Pearl Country Club. This is one of our signature events that will generate funds to support the various scholarships that our association awards each year. We have a number of sponsorship options for this year's event:
Alaka'i - $3,000.00
Includes: 1 Team (3 players); 1 Golf Cart with Signage (sponsor provides give away, must be pre-approved by HLTA Golf Committee); 2 hole-sponsorship tee signs; VIP Parking; Sponsor logo in collateral; Executive Swag Bag Gift.
Kōkua - $2,500.00
Includes: 1 Team (3 players); 1 sponsored tent (sponsor provides tent and give away, must be preapproved by HLTA Golf Committee); 2 hole-sponsorship tee signs; Sponsor logo in collateral.
SINGLE TEAM - $1,500.00
Includes: 1 Team (3 players)
TEE SPONSORSHIP - $500.00
Includes: 1 hole-sponsorship tee sign
HOLE #5: PAR 5 (TEAM) - $50
Tee off from a special tee box on the par 5.
To register for this event, please either click the image above or this link. For any questions regarding sponsorship or other involvement opportunities like prize donations and volunteering, please contact HLTA Director of Membership & Special Projects Ashley Yonamine.
I hope to see you there!
This afternoon, Gov. Ige announced several coming changes to local travel restrictions.
The local tourism industry is beginning to resemble a sense of pre-pandemic levels of business, and with it we are starting to witness a growing anti-tourism sentiment amongst a number of Hawai'i residents. The past year of depressed arrival numbers was detrimental to our economy but gave the islands a break from many of the perceived negatives that are associated with tourism, and these are becoming amplified as we experience quick growth in the number of visitors that are returning to the state.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser recently reported on a survey by the University of Hawai‘i Public Policy Center that found that 52% of respondents expressed a desire to limit the number of visitors to the islands while 78% supported the concept of impact fees being charged at high-traffic areas such as state parks. This is just the latest media reporting on the sliding resident sentiment regarding tourism, and it would be remiss for us to ignore this.
If we are to change this mindset and soften the overall opposition to the tourism industry, it is important that we continue to look at ways in which we can collaborate with our neighbors. One proven concept of which our association has been an ardent proponent is the utilization of user impact fees. Take the Hanauma Bay model for example; the revenues generated through impact and parking fees support the maintenance of the park while the daily limit on park users will help to keep the place healthy for generations to come.
Another area where we have worked closely with members of the community is on the issue of illegal short-term vacation rentals. As you are well aware, HLTA has taken the clear position that STRs should be relegated to resort-zoned areas and pay the appropriate taxes. However, illegally operating units have spread through our communities and bring with them a host of negative effects that impact our neighborhoods.
Coming together with the general public to solve shared issues like these is the best means of combatting what seems to be a growing negative perception of tourism.
Another recent survey by SMS Research & Marketing Service Inc. polled residents on their vaccination status and opinions of vaccination as a whole. Out of more than 400 respondents, nearly 70% reported being fully vaccinated. The survey also found that 12% of respondents have no intention of being vaccinated at any time for reasons including a lack of trust in vaccines and religious or political objections. Overall, these results are extremely positive and show that we are moving at a healthy clip toward herd immunity. The sooner that an acceptable number of residents get vaccinated, the sooner that this will become feasible, and we must continue to push for this to take place. Those of us who work or associate with the hospitality industry need to lead by example by making sure that we and our families are vaccinated. As I noted in the Star-Advertiser article, all of the available data indicates that vaccination "greatly lessens the likelihood of contracting the virus and transmitting as well".
Right now, through our strong vaccination levels and the Safe Travels program, Hawai'i can bill itself as being among the healthiest places in the world to travel. As more and more destinations succeed in opening their doors to tourists, the competition for prospective travelers' business will continue to increase. As a state, we must stay the course and continue to get vaccinated in large numbers for the sake of our community health and the health of our economy.
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