August 29, 2020
Today, the State Department of Health reported 310 new COVID-19 cases- the vast majority of which are still occurring on O'ahu.
I understand how daunting the "Stay at home/Work from home" order can be, but we need to get this under control. People continue to contract this disease, people continue to lose their lives, and we continue to suffer as a state. Fortunately, our tools against COVID-19 are clear; social distance; wear masks; practice good personal hygiene. If we can commit to these ideas and each do our part, we will surely see Hawai'i's caseload begin to diminish again.
On a positive note, The Maui News has reported that Mayor Victorino has given the official green light for filming of "Temptation Island" to begin at the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort. Despite recent opposition to this project, the production crew and cast will be contained in a bubble and will be subject to rigorous COVID-19 standards including multiple COVID-19 tests, use of PPE at all times except during filming, and strict COVID-19 hygiene protocols for the resort staff.
This project, which received support from several local labor unions, will provide more than 100 jobs to local film crew- not to mention lodging industry jobs for numerous staff at the Andaz. I am pleased that Mayor Victorino and the Maui community have ultimately decided to move forward with this production as it will give a local resort the chance to demonstrate that hygiene protocols can, in fact, keep people safe.
In closing, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to John De Fries who has been offered the top post at the Hawai'i Tourism Authority. John brings a wealth of tourism experience to this job. Born and raised in Waikiki, he has been involved in our industry in one way or another for decades. Most recently, he has served as executive director of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association.
John joined HLTA as a guest speaker at our 2019 General Membership Meeting and impressed everybody in attendance that day with his presentation, "The Physics of Pō". He will be a strong leader for HTA in what will certainly be difficult times, and I look forward to working closely with him as I did with Chris Tatum. We certainly wish Chris and Peg well as they take a well-deserved vacation before re- locating to Colorado.
Please continue to stay safe and enjoy your weekend.
Support the Film/Tourism Industry
The filming of "Temptation Island" on Maui was postponed last week by Mayor Mike Victorino, who wanted more time to evaluate the proposal.
The month-long production at the Andaz Maui would have generated at least $7.5 million in spending, brought maybe a hundred visiting cast and crew, and employed another hundred local people, not including hotel workers- in little less than two months. Filming was to take place at the Andaz, with everyone following at least three weeks of strict testing, quarantine, and isolation protocols established by the state and county governments, as well as the national film industry, in order to protect both the crew and public.
In the wake of the postponement, Mayor Victorino said he will form a committee to guide restarting film production, which at the very least will involve affected businesses and other stakeholders in providing input for pandemic response decision-making.
This was - we hope - only a temporary setback to our recovery, because it serves as an example of the synergy between tourism and related industries, of which film and television production has become a mainstay. This one production would have enabled one hotel to recover some of its lost business, provided jobs for local film technicians and hotel workers, and stimulated spending in our economy—all within a safe and strictly enforced bubble. We can do more to encourage this type of economy activity, which meets all the standards for a safe working environment, especially for the affected employees.
We believe resuming film and TV production in the islands, following public health protocols and standards, is one way to provide some measure of hope for our economic recovery. As I have long maintained hearkening back to my days as the state director of DBEDT, this is also a way to draw upon our core competence of our tourism-dominant economy by supporting other industries that complement tourism, create jobs, and showcase the beauty and natural resources of the Hawaiian Islands to a global audience.
More film and television series like "Hawaii 5-0" and "Magnum P.I." are exactly what we need to seek and support during these very challenging economic times. A successful launch of "Temptation Island" on the Valley Isle could spark additional interest of other series being filmed and produced throughout our state. We urge our elected officials and the community to support this initiative.
During the press conference to announce his 12th emergency proclamation, Gov. Ige made clear that this particular proclamation would make resort bubbles a viable possibility in the near future. This would allow both in-state and out-of-state visitors and possibly employees to stay at designated resort properties. If said guest were to try to leave the property, geofencing technology would immediately alert local law enforcement.
The resort bubble concept has received varying amounts of support, concern, and dissent. Despite some initial pushback, both Mayor Kawakami and Mayor Victorino have voiced initial support for this initiative. I believe that resort bubbles represent a positive step forward that would allow hotels to open sooner safely and attract visitors at a critical period of our state’s economic slump. Most importantly, it will put people back to work! As I noted in comments to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, this is not the ultimate solution - transpacific travel is our goal but the latest spikes on Oahu raise questions as whether the new, October 1 opening date is realistic. A key indicator could very well be the upcoming Labor Day weekend.
Bubbles also appear to have some appeal with labor. ILWU and Local 5 went on the record yesterday, stating that they would be open to this idea as it would put their membership back at work.
Additionally, resort bubbles would provide participating hotels the opportunity to fine tune their hygiene standards and protocols as well as introduce some new technology and apps in our new normal of doing business.
Enjoy your weekend with your family and loved ones. Please feel free to contact me at any time should you have any questions or concerns.
#AlohaLater Food Distribution
Yesterday morning, HLTA and Aloha Harvest partnered to hold our third food distribution to benefit hospitality workers who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 epidemic. More than 100 volunteers showed up first thing in the morning at Aloha Stadium to distribute more than 1,000 food bundles to tourism professionals and their families.
The event was made possible through funds raised by the #AlohaLater campaign, and I also want to send a special shoutout to both Aloha Harvest for their support as well as Honolulu Disposal Service for supplying us with a dumpster and handling all of the ʻōpala created during the distribution. Kudos to Aloha Stadium for making it possible for us to host such a large event there.
Despite the current uncertainties that we face as an industry, it never ceases to amaze me when I see the men and women of Hawai'i's visitor industry pull together in support of each other. We will undoubtedly get past these trials but, in the meantime, we must continue to support each other through this economic downturn.
Mahalo to our partners
We Are Ready (Too)
On Thursday, hotels on Maui and Hawai'i Island continued our successful media campaign and held We Are Ready Day tours to demonstrate to local elected officials and members of the press that our industry is prepared for the eventuality that tourism will return, and that we will once again welcome visitors to our islands. A couple of weeks ago we debuted the program here on O'ahu.
On Hawai'i Island, the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort, the Fairmont Orchid, and the Hilton Grand Vacations Bay Club each opened their doors to the media and government officials. Mahalo to the following individuals who were able to attend:
House Tourism Chair Richard Onishi
Deputy Managing Director Barbara Kossow
Hawai'i County Councilmember Tim Richards
On the Valley Isle, the Four Seasons Resort Maui and the Wailea Beach Marriott each sponsored a tour of their properties for Maui Mayor Mike Victorino, Senator Kalani English, and Senator Gilbert Keith-Agaran- as well as members of the press.
Kudos to our neighbor island partners for facilitating and hosting great events and really highlighting the lengths to which our local hotels are going to keep both employees and guests safe. This will be critical in restoring faith in our industry and is key to our overall recovery.
This initiative also strengthens my assertion that resort bubbles are a priority of HLTA as I have been espousing. Our objective is to attempt to kick it off successfully on the neighbor islands. We applaud both Mayor Kawakami and Mayor Victorino for being supportive of the concept!
Please have a restful and safe weekend with your 'ohana.
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