Bill 80 (2020) Update
Council Chair Ann Kobayashi and Councilmember Carol Fukunaga are pictured above at a press conference where they voiced their support for HLTA's position on Real Property Tax rates in June 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser).
The Honolulu City Council just posted its agenda for its upcoming Council, Meeting and Bill 80 (2020) will not be heard by the Council for second reading at this time. This is a significant win for our industry and an even more significant setback in the timeline for this measure's enactment.
Now, to be clear, the bill is not dead as of yet. Council Chair Ann Kobayashi has decided not to hear Bill 80 (2020) at this time, and it stands to reason that the bill is facing strong opposition amongst the nine councilmembers for a litany of reasons. The decision by Chair Kobayashi to keep this measure in committee is a strong signal that several councilmembers are aware of the myriad issues raised by this bill. Bill 80 (2020) will remain in committee for now. It is likely that a resolution, which does not have the force of law, will be put forward to address some of the issues addressed in Bill 80 (2020).
All this being said, I am relieved to see that the initial haste to ram this measure through has given way to common sense and leadership among the City councilmembers. At the end of the day, we are all after the same goal: to put our people back to work and restore our businesses. Bill 80 (2020)'s unintended consequences would have resulted in the complete opposite occurring.
I've had several conversations with Council Chair Kobayashi on this matter and am very grateful for her leadership. Please join me in expressing our sincerest mahalo to Chair Kobayashi for this decision as well as Councilmembers Carol Fukunaga, Heidi Tsuneyoshi, and Brandon Elefante for their early opposition. Our office will continue to monitor Bill 80 (2020) for any further updates.
Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Hawai'i, before we really knew the extent to which we would be affected, I floated the idea of staycations as a means for local residents to both infuse revenue into the tourism economy and to take advantage of excellent kama'āina rates. In the latest Sunday edition of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, there was an article that reported some of the great kamaʻāina rates that are available right now.
Among the resorts mentioned, you would find 'Alohilani Resort, Aqua-Aston Hospitality properties, Aulani A Disney Resort & Spa, Marriott Bonvoy, three Sheraton properties, five Outrigger hotels in Waikiki, the Prince Waikiki, as well as the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club all advertising kamaʻāina rates and other specials. Please take a moment to check it out and consider visiting one of our local lodging properties to see the outstanding work they've done to prepare for tourism to resume.
I am confident that you'll be as impressed as I have been.
Food Drive Opportunity
As you know, the Hawaiʻi Lodging and Tourism Association has been working hard providing food distribution opportunities for the thousands of impacted hospitality workers during this pandemic.
I have been made aware of several upcoming smaller food distributions to be hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints on Saturday, November 7th throughout the City & County of Honolulu. This JustServe project of the Church would also like to target our hospitality workers.
There will be four sites at their Chapel parking lots in Kalihi, Waipahu, Makakilo, and Kaneohe operating from 10am - 12 noon, with 150 bags per location and all will be given on a first come, first served basis. There will be no registration, and it will be limited to one care package per vehicle. Church volunteers and LDS missionaries will be coordinating these food distributions. They are very aware of the challenges facing our industry and want to support our furloughed employees. Please feel free to circulate this among your staff.
Should you have any questions, please contact Kathy Kamauu, the CC Hawaii JustServe Specialist, at KathyKamauu@gmail.com or you can contact me at email@example.com.
I hope that you had a relaxing and enjoyable weekend.
We continue to work to address the various issues that have arisen since the restoration of trans-Pacific travel on October 15. As of late, the most pressing concern has been the notion held by some that travelers are coming to Hawai'i and knowingly choosing to disobey State and county mandates regarding masks, social distancing, and other public health recommendations.
As I have previously shared, there are numerous initiatives under way that are aimed at educating visitors on the different rules that are currently in place and how they vary from island to island. In comments that I have made to the media, I have continued to reiterate that our local populace shares in the responsibility to continue wearing masks, limiting the size of our social gatherings, and practicing good hygiene.
Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard recently echoed my sentiments, noting in a Star-Advertiser article that the majority of COVID-19 violations that have been handed out since October 15 have been to local residents. Public opinion of tourism is in a precarious position, and it was highly encouraging to have Chief Ballard reaffirming that many of the travelers who are coming to Hawai'i are, for the most part, abiding by local mandates.
Media that may be of interest to you
"Hawaii's tangle of testing policies worry some," Travel Weekly, October 25, 2020
"Free COVID-19 testing available in Waikiki and Ko Olina today," October 22, 2020
Free COVID-19 Testing
The City & County of Honolulu has announced that it will be offering FREE COVID-19 testing to the public with priority being given to hotel workers. These test kits were made available through a surplus of test kits from the United States Department of Health and Human Services. At the time of announcement, more than 28,000 test kits were still available.
If you are interested in a test, please visit doineedacovid19test.com to register. There are currently testing locations at both the Waikiki Shell and the Ko Olina Resort Center with other locations possibly being announced in the future.
As we begin to see more and more travelers return to Hawai'i, our frontline workers should take every precaution to protect their health while also taking advantage of every testing opportunity. This is not only for their own personal health, but that of their families, friends, and colleagues.
On Friday, HLTA once again partnered with Aloha Harvest to host a food distribution event for tourism industry workers who have been impacted by the COVID-19 epidemic. Using funds generated through our #AlohaLater campaign, we were able to distribute roughly 1,500 food bundles, each containing fresh produce, eggs, milk, protein, and dry goods.
Mahalo to the following people and organizations who helped to make this event a successful one:
Gerdyn Enterprises LLC/Cabebe Brothers LLC
Honolulu Disposal Service
Mahalo also to Senator Kurt Fevella, Augie T., Trish La Chica, Kelly Kitashima and their teams for joining us.
Finally, my deepest mahalo to all of the volunteers who braved the cold and wet weather conditions to lend a helping hand to those in need.
In the final installment of our neighbor island Candidate Spotlight, we will be focusing on the Hawai'i Island candidates whose candidacies have been endorsed by HLTA. As a reminder, you can view our entire list of endorsements by clicking here or by visiting our endorsement page on our website.
House District District 2
Hilo, Keaukaha, Pana'ewa, Waiakea
Bill 80 (2020)
Today, the Committee on Executive Matters and Legal Affairs heard Bill 80 (2020). Hundreds of pieces of written testimony were submitted and many oral testimonies were heard during today's hearing with numerous issues and points of contention being raised by both stakeholders and the Councilmembers themselves. The bill, unfortunately, was passed out of committee. But, the positive takeaway was that we know that out of nine councilmembers, three have now voted no- Fukunaga, Elefante, and Tsuneyoshi (during the first reading of the measure), while two went on record voting with reservations in Kobayashi and Texeira, which means they have concerns that need to be addressed. Menor, Waters, and Manahan were a solid yes.
Today's votes were as follows:
- Committee Chair Ron Menor - Yes
- Committee Vice Chair Carol Fukunaga - No
- Councilmember Brandon Elefante - No
- Council Chair Ann Kobayashi - Yes, with reservations
- Councilmember Alan Kekoa Texeira - Yes, with reservations
- Councilmember Tommy Waters - Yes
During my testimony, I noted that California Governor Newsom recently vetoed a similar measure that was passed by the California State Assembly. Gov. Newsom pointed to the hospitality's industry struggles caused by COVID-19 and said that the bill would have placed, "too onerous a burden on employers navigating these tough challenges." His sentiments expressed in California definitely apply in Honolulu.
BIll 80 will likely be heard at the next Full Council meeting on Thursday, November 5, and we will continue to work with our industry partners to make our opposition to this measure known. For those of you who submitted testimony or testified in person, we say mahalo and ask you to stay the course. We request for those of you who have not weighed in yet that you do so to show that we are firmly in opposition to a measure that will have a serious negative impact on our ability to operate and bring employees back to work safely. In particular, if you live in Councilmember Waters, Menor, or Manahan's Council district, please inform them of your opposition to this egregious bill. If you live in Councilmember Elefante, Fukunaga, or Tsuneyoshi’s district, please convey a distinct mahalo to them for their strong support. And, if you reside in Chair Kobayashi or Councilmember Texeira’s district, please encourage them to support our position.
"Honolulu City Council bill mandates hotel employee callback rules," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, October 20, 2020
Since the restoration of trans-Pacific travel on October 15, there have been scattered reports regarding the number of citations that have been given out by local law enforcement to individuals who are not abiding by State and county mandates. Some of the public sentiment, and many of the questions that I have been receiving have focused on education. What is our industry doing to educate travelers and encourage them to follow the rules regarding masks and social distancing?
In addition to the ongoing communication that I have had with our membership, and the great lengths to which our local lodging professionals are going to educate their guests, the Hawai'i Tourism Authority today announced the continuation of its Kuleana Campaign. Originally launched through a partnership between HTA and the Hawai'i Visitors & Convention Bureau, the campaign's newest video encourages travelers to Hawai'i to abide with the public health guidelines that have been enacted to keep us all safe. The video, which has been shared above, has been sent to airline, lodging, & activity partners to share with customers upon booking. Moreover, this video will show up on travelers' social media accounts through targeted advertising technology.
To read HTA's press release, please click here.
Mahalo to the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort for sending along these wonderful interviews from yesterday!
The day that we've all been awaiting has finally come and gone. Yesterday, trans-Pacific travel was restored, and the turnout exceeded early projections. Over the course of 30 incoming flights, the total number of incoming passengers was 10,012. Of these, nearly 7,000 were tourists. Moreover, nearly 85% of incoming travelers opted to utilize the state's incoming test program to exempt themselves from the mandatory, 14-day quarantine.
In speaking with hoteliers today, it seems that the majority of the day, both at the airport and at hotel check-in, went rather smoothly. In the links below, you'll find various media coverage of the first day of restored travel, including a firsthand account by a freelance journalist who traveled here and experienced how the airport's new standards would function.
As I noted in recent comments to The Washington Post, the pandemic was a horrific experience for our entire industry. But, now that we've actually re-opened, we'll slowly be able to reverse the trends that we've experienced for the past several months.
Media That May Interest You
"Hawaii or bust: A traveler’s notebook as he successfully navigates Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, October 15, 2020
"Final count of passengers arriving in Hawaii Thursday tops 10,000," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, October 16, 2020
As you know, yesterday we joined with the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, the Hawai'i Agricultural Foundation, and Hawaiian Airlines to launch our education and media campaign, "Mākaukau - We Are Ready". The response to the initial video, which is posted above, has been tremendous, and I feel strongly that this represents not only the readiness of our community to welcome tourists back, but also the demand that exists around the world to resume safe travel to Hawai'i.
Please take a moment to visit our website at Mākaukau.com.
Related Media Items
"Coalition of local businesses launch We Are Ready campaign to reopen Hawaii," KHON, October 15, 2020
"Business organizations welcome back visitors with “Makaukau – We Are Ready” campaign," KITV, October 15, 2020
"Residents are conflicted about the return of visitors under Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, October 15, 2020
We are pleased to report that our latest free food distribution has completely sold out. Now, we are looking for volunteers who would like to pitch in on Friday, October 23rd at Aloha Stadium to help us distribute the food bundles to hospitality families in need.
If you are interested in volunteering, please fill out this Google Form. For any other questions, please email Director of Membership & Special Projects, Ashley Yonamine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
General Membership Meeting
Have a great weekend.
Hawaii News Now Panel
On Monday evening, Hawaii News Now will air a special discussion panel on which I was invited to discuss various issues surrounding the upcoming resumption of trans-Pacific travel which is slated for October 15. Also appearing on the panel will be the following individuals:
Other Media That May Interest You
"Tourism resumes next week but some say ‘we are not prepared’," KHON, October 8, 2020
"Uncertainty around traveler testing program has many taking ‘wait-and-see’ approach," Hawaii News Now, October 10, 2020
In our latest installment of HLTA's Candidate Spotlight, we will be focusing on several of the candidates that we have endorsed for election to the House of Representatives.
Sam Kong currently serves as the representative for House District 33 which covers Aiea, Halawa, Newtown, Royal Summit, Pearl Ridge, Waimalu, and Enchanted Hills. He was first elected to the seat in 2014, stepping into the seat vacated by the late Mark Takai. The Air Force veteran is a small business owner and has been an ally of our industry since his election.
Last week, I met with first-time candidate Adrian Tam who is running for House District 22 which is comprised of Waikiki, Ala Moana, and Kaka'ako. In speaking with Adrian, it is very clear that he is eager not only to serve his district, but also to learn more about our industry and what we bring to the table- especially as members of the Waikiki community.
Trish La Chica is currently running for House District 36 which is made up of Mililani and Mililani Mauka. The former investigative journalist is currently the Policy and Advocacy Director for Hawai'i Public Health Institute and has drummed up immense grassroots support throughout this election cycle.
Candidate for House District 33
Aiea, Halawa, Newtown, Royal Summit,
Pearl Ridge, Waimalu, and Enchanted Hills
Candidate for House District 22
Waikiki, Ala Moana, and Kaka'ako
Trish La Chica
Candidate for House District 36
Mililani, Mililani Mauka
October 7, 2020
Today, the Honolulu City Council heard the first reading of Bill 80 (2020) which relates to the right of recall for laid-off hotel industry employees. The vote passed with six councilmembers voting aye, one voting with reservations, and Councilmembers Carol Fukunaga and Heidi Tsuneyoshi voting no. You may remember that Councilmember Tsuneyoshi was a staunch supporter of our industry when we opposed a hike in Real Property Tax rates last year.
Also, as a former City Councilmember, I would like to point out that having two councilmembers vote against an item up for first reading is unusual and highly encouraging for us as we look to defeat this measure.
Bill 80 (2020) Key Points
As such, I submitted testimony and had our Vice President of Government & Community Affairs Jared Higashi present oral testimony in staunch opposition to Bill 80 (2020). Mahalo to the following individuals who also submitted early written testimony opposing this bill:
Bill 80 (2020) will next be heard by the Committee on Executive Matters and Legal Affairs on Tuesday, October 20, at 1 p.m. EMLA is unique in that every councilmember sits on this committee. When Bill 80 (2020) is heard by EMLA, I must urge you to not only submit further testimony, but also take the opportunity to offer oral testimony via video during the committee hearing. We must make clear the disastrous effects that this measure will have on our industry.
We will send out further information and reminders as we get closer to the EMLA hearing date. If you need help with either crafting or submitting testimony, please feel free to contact either Jared Higashi or Jared Ellis at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org respectively.
As you know, the HLTA Endorsement Committee ultimately decided to remain open in the Honolulu mayor's race, but we are still sharing information about both candidates with our membership. In addition to his successful tenure as the Executive Director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, Keith Amemiya also has private sector experience as an executive with Island Insurance and a stint on University of Hawai'i Board of Regents.
Steve Alm is a former United States Attorney, First Circuit Court Judge, and Deputy Prosecutor and was the leading candidate in the primary election for Honolulu Prosecutor. In reading his questionnaire, it is clear that Steve is deeply committed to restoring trust and transparency in a City office that has struggled under the weight of investigations and controversy in recent years.
Below you will find links to the candidates' campaign websites as well as the HLTA questionnaire that they completed to be considered for endorsement. If you click their headshot, you'll be able to view a personal video that they have recorded for HLTA.
HLTA, the Maui Lodging & Tourism Association, and a Maui nonprofit recently partnered to provide more than 400 local tourism industry employees and their families with free food bundles. This was made possible through funds generated through the #AlohaLater campaign.
Please join us for this Instagram Live event.
October 2, 2020
In today's edition of HLTA's Candidate Spotlight, I wanted to highlight just a handful of the county level candidates for Honolulu. Below, you will find the three candidates for the Honolulu City Council that have been endorsed by HLTA. Esther Kia’āina (District 3), Jacob Aki (District 7), and Augusto 'Augie T' Tulba (District 9) are first-time candidates for the City Council and each of them brings a wealth of different experiences to the table. All three impressed us during both the primary election cycle and our endorsement process, and I am excited to see how they will serve their communities should they be elected.
The HLTA Statewide Endorsement Committee was impressed by both candidates for the Honolulu mayoral seat. Although we ultimately decided to remain open during this election, we are going to share information about both candidates leading up to Election Day. This week, we are featuring Rick Blangiardi, the former general manager of Hawaii News Now. Rick has extensive experience in the private sector and would bring both leadership and a vast network of relationships to Honolulu Hale. During his interview with our committee, Rick made clear that he was ready and willing to work with tourism industry stakeholders throughout our economic recovery.
Be on the lookout for our feature on Keith Amemiya next week.
In the sections below, you will be able to access their campaign websites, review the tourism-centric questionnaire that they submitted for possible endorsement, and hear a special message recorded by the candidate which can be viewed by clicking their headshot.
Moving forward, Candidate Spotlights which will be sent out twice a week through my message posts. You may also visit our endorsement page to view info on each of our endorsed candidates.
Candidate for Honolulu City Council District 3
Ahuimanu, Heeia, Haiku, Kaneohe, Maunawili, Kailua, Olomana, Enchanted Lake, and Waimanalo
Augusto 'Augie T' Tulba
Candidate for Honolulu City Council District 9
Waikele, Village Park, Royal Kunia, Mililani Town, West Loch, Iroquois Point, and portions of Ewa Villages and Ewa Beach
Candidate for Honolulu City Council District 7
Kalihi, lwilei, Kalihi Kai, Mapunapuna, Salt Lake, Aliamanu, Hickam,
Foster Village, Ford Island, and Sand Island
On October 23rd, HLTA will again partner with Aloha Harvest to host a food distribution event for hospitality workers and their families. In order to maintain social distancing, this will be a drive up event held at Aloha Stadium.
At past distributions, we have been extremely fortunate to have so many volunteers show up to help out. If you would be interested in joining us as a volunteer at our next event, please fill out this form. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact HLTA Director of Membership & Special Projects Ashley Yonamine at email@example.com.
Stay in the know
Keep up with HLTA through our blog! Let us know what you think in the comment box below each post.