Meeting with Gov. Ige
Yesterday, members of our statewide coalition—representing the tourism industry, restaurants, retail, air and ground transportation, trade associations, labor unions, community groups, and chambers of commerce—met with Gov. Ige to provide an update as to how his August 23 request for nonessential travel to halt has affected local businesses and our employees.
Mahalo to the following individuals who provided critical updates from key areas and economic sectors of our state: Sherry Menor-McNamara, President & CEO, Chamber of Commerce Hawai'i; Greg Maples, Chairman, Hawai‘i Restaurant Association; Toni Marie Davis, Executive Director, Activities & Attractions Association of Hawai'i; Tina Yamaki, President , Retail Merchants of Hawai'i; Pamela Tumpap, President, Maui Chamber of Commerce; Wendy Laros, President & CEO, Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce; Mark Perriello, President & CEO, Kaua'i Chamber of Commerce; Sean Williams, Vice President, State & Local Government Affairs, Airlines for America; and Jack Richards, President & CEO, Pleasant Holidays.
After reviewing the public health metrics that I highlighted in my last message, the coalition related to Gov. Ige just how important preparation will be in restoring travel as the entire travel industry will need sufficient time to market, communicate, and adjust operationally for any influx of visitors. I've expressed similar sentiments in recent comments to Civil Beat and to Hawaii News Now, noting that everything comes down to bookings, and our industry partners will need to prepare sufficiently before the doors to our state are flung open once again.
Senate Tourism Committee Tour
This morning, we led a tour of Waikiki with members of our State Senate Committee on Energy, Economic Development, and Tourism. Senate Tourism Chair Glenn Wakai, Vice Chair Bennette Misalucha, Senator Chris Lee, and a few of their team members joined us on what was an educational outing. We started the morning at the Prince Waikiki with an excellent tour led by General Manager Joshua Hargrove and Prince Resorts Hawai‘i’s President Kisan Jo. We then joined our friends at the Royal Hawaiian Center at their guest services and heritage room, Helumoa Hale. Mahalo to Sam Shenkus, Monte McComber, Aaron Sala, Michael Cox, Nani Hanus, Joy Veeraplin, and Kareen Balogo for their wonderful insights and hospitality. Our third stop was at the 'Alohilani Resort where Hotel Manager Mark Waller, Director of Operations Daniel Texeira, and Associate Director of HR Danae Orellana led the highly informative site tour. We ended the morning with a journey through the Waikiki Special District on one of E Noa Tour’s famous trolleys where WIA President Rick Egged and WBIDA President Jennifer Nakayama highlighted a variety of ongoing projects in the area.
This was a great opportunity to dialogue with the Senate Tourism Committee leadership and update them on everything from health and safety protocols to challenges that we face in the wake of the pandemic and to share new and creative initiatives that have been implemented to attract business from both locals and visitors. Many thanks to our members who stepped up to make this possible.
In October and November, the Sheraton Waikiki will host two vaccination clinics. These events are free and open to the public. While pre-registration is encouraged, walk-ins will also be accepted while vaccine supplies last.
Should you have any questions, please call (808) 691-2222 or visit covid.queens.org/vaccine-clinics.
Mahalo to Kyo-Ya Management Company and its Vice President of Administration, Labor and Community Relations Jason Ito for offering this wonderful opportunity to our industry members and local residents!
Pictured above from left: Rick Egged of the Waikiki Improvement Association, Lisa Tamashiro of Adult Friends for Youth, Prosecutor Steve Alm, Visitor Aloha Society’s Jessica Lani Rich, HLTA’s Mufi Hannemann, Tina Yamaki of the Retail Merchants of Hawai‘i, Bob Finley of the Waikiki Neighborhood Board, and Jerry Dolak of HHVISA.
After holding our latest Visitor Public Safety Conference at the Hawai‘i Convention Center, the partnering stakeholders have worked to develop an action plan to hone in on and address the issues raised by the groups in attendance. Being that several of these required the input and expertise of City Prosecutor Steven Alm, we met with him last week.
One critical topic of discussion was learning more about how Weed & Seed locations are established. This is a program that was started by the U.S. Department of Justice that works to weed out crime and seed neighborhoods with critical programs and services. It has been highly successful in several neighborhoods throughout the City & County of Honolulu, and I witnessed a lot of benefits from it during my public service tenure with the City. In addition to DOJ, it entails a collaborative partnership with City government, HPD, the judicial system, businesses, and numerous community groups and volunteers. Prosecutor Alm has been a vocal proponent of the program throughout his career.
The Prosecutor's Office is currently taking the lead in working with the Blangiardi administration and the City Council on establishing a Weed & Seed site in the Chinatown area and laying the groundwork on also revamping Weed & Seed sites in Waipahu and Ewa Beach. That being said, we look forward to Waikiki also eventually being a prime candidate for a future Weed & Seed initiative.
We also discussed the viability of introducing residency requirements for homeless individuals to access services in Hawai'i. This is a policy that has been implemented in numerous municipalities across the country and ultimately reduces the need for repatriation while ensuring that critical services are being utilized by locals who are experiencing homelessness. We will explore before the next legislative session whether there is support from our State elected official for such a measure here in Hawai'i.
Sunday's edition of the Star-Advertiser had a great article from Waikiki Bureau Chief Allison Schaefers that accurately described the pressure the tourism industry is undergoing as a result of the state’s request for nonessential travel to halt. The article took a wide-ranging look at the issue, speaking or quoting from folks from our industry including Highgate Hawai'i's Kelly Sanders, Hawai'i Convention Center General Manager Teri Orton, Pleasant Hawaiian Holiday’s Jack Richards, VASH’s Jessica Lani Rich and myself, as well as Maui Mayor Mike Victorino and individuals who have had major challenges with the State’s current travel policy.
The article can be read in its entirety here.
Yesterday, the federal government indicated that it will be working to reestablish international travel for vaccinated travelers in the coming months. The announcement noted a November 1 target date and the fact that pre-arrival testing within 72 hours of departure will most likely be required.
While there are still countless details that have to be finalized, this was a welcome announcement that bodes well for a worldwide travel industry that has been depressed for more than a year. International travelers to our state has always a major component and contributor to our travel and tourism industry.
Wall Street Journal
In the time since Governor Ige's request for nonessential travel to halt, there has been media coverage of the announcement and the compounding effects that it has had on the local tourism industry and the economy in its entirety. In addition to all of the local media outlets, I've also been contacted by several national publications including The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal which ran its article today. The WSJ reporter Allison Pohle did a commendable job of stating our predicament. The article can be found here in its entirety for your reading.
Domino's Hawai'i Promotion
I am pleased to announce that Domino's Hawai'i has offered to run a special promotion in support of O'ahu's Visitor Industry Charity Walk. Beginning on Monday, September 20th and running through the 26th, Domino's will donate a portion of all pizza sales to help us close out our Charity Walk campaign.
This is an amazing opportunity to boost our overall fundraising efforts, and I would like to extend a special mahalo to HLTA Board Member Mike Rompel for his generous offer. Mike has been an amazing addition to our board and has actively found ways to support HLTA efforts and initiatives from the moment he joined.
Please share the poster above far and wide and consider buying Domino's pizza for yourself and your families for the next week. For our lodging members, we ask that you please share this with your guests and let them know that their cheesy satisfaction is helping our local nonprofit community here on O'ahu.
Today marked the official kick-off for our Hotels for Healthcare Heroes initiative that provides free hotel rooms for doctors, nurses, and other critical staff who are working tirelessly to stem the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to the generosity of our lodging partners, more than 100 of these heroes have checked in for two-night staycations around the state.
This is just the first weekend and the response has already been awesome. Mahalo to our partner the Healthcare Association of Hawai‘i and to all of the hotels, businesses, and others who have contributed to launching us successfully. If your hotel or resort has not yet signed up but are interested in providing rooms, please email H4HH@hawaiilodging.org to do so as our goal is to offer this special act of aloha to the last weekend of October.
The issue of vaccination has been a contentious one for our community throughout the pandemic. Perhaps even more divisive is the debate centering on the legality of vaccine mandates and what power, if any, employers have to require their employees to be vaccinated.
Sensing these questions, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidance indicating that employers can legally require their employees to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus as a condition of employment. Despite this guidance, concerns remained that other laws including the Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act (FDCA) may have restricted an employer's ability to mandate the vaccine in light of its Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) status. The U.S. Department of Justice, however, issued an opinion to the contrary in July of this year, stating that Section 564 of the FDCA permits employers to impose vaccination as a condition of employment despite the EUA. The opinion applies to both public and private employers.
All these things considered, it is no surprise that governmental bodies and private employers around our state have wrestled with new policies, how to apply them, and how to best inform their respective workforces of new requirements. While HLTA has not taken a public position on employer-mandated vaccination policies due to the wide variety of management groups, labor unions, and property types around the hospitality sector, we have been vocally supportive of statewide vaccination efforts.
As such, I want to take a moment to publicly laud the Kahala Hotel & Resort for announcing their decision to require vaccination among all of their employees. General Manager Joe Ibarra is to be commended for making this announcement.
If you have any questions about vaccination policies, please feel free to contact our offices at any time.
We are a just a few days into our first-ever, virtual Visitor Industry Charity Walk, and we have been seeing great participation! Though the technical "Walk Window" runs for just two weeks, we will be accepting donations to Charity Walk through the end of the month, so please continue your fundraising efforts and share this information with your family, friends and colleagues. There will be prizes available for select winners!
To contribute, please visit CharityWalkHawaii.org.
Finally, we are in need of information from our members. Below, you will find a link to a confidential Google Form with just a handful of short questions. I can assure you that this information will remain confidential and any interpretation of the information shared used in our advocacy efforts will not under any circumstance be attributed to a specific property, company, or organization.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this form, or would prefer not to answer in writing, please feel free to contact me directly at any time.
HLTA SURVEY - Please click here.
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