EAT THINK DRINK 13: Reimagining Tourism 2021
In partnership with the Hawai'i Agricultural Foundation, the Hawai'i Lodging & Tourism Association is pleased to announce that the latest episode of HAF's extremely popular EAT THINK DRINK series has been scheduled for January 12 at 6 p.m. and will focus on the future of our local tourism sector. The episode, entitled "Reimagining Tourism 2021 - Sustaining Our Future", will feature key industry leaders and stakeholders who will be faced with hard questions that our industry has been forced to ask of itself:
"How do we reshape tourism to keep our economy going while making sure we maintain livable communities?"
"How can we innovate our existing industries such as agriculture with new technology, and create new programs to attract remote workers?"
"Is it finally time to diversify our economy away from tourism?"
The event will be kicked off with remarks from yours truly as well as Paul Brewbaker of TZ Economics. This is to be followed by a discussion panel that will be moderated by Senate Tourism Chair Glenn Wakai. The panel will include the following participants:
This event has limited space so please register as soon as possible! You may visit the registration page by clicking any of the graphics or links in this email, or by clicking here.
Hope to see you there!
I hope that you had a festive and relaxing holiday with your loved ones. Although our gatherings were smaller than usual by Hawai'i standards, I am sure the love, cheer, and aloha felt by all was not dampened.
I also want to send a quick mahalo to the properties that responded to our statewide survey last week. If you have not yet responded, please try to get this short set of questions filled out and back to us on Monday, close of business.
Over the past several days, the findings of two troubling studies have been published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The first, which was run on Christmas Eve, reported that more than half of local restaurants may be forced to permanently close their doors by April if tourism does not experience a significant boost soon. Among the most telling statistics was that eighty-seven percent of restauranteurs that responded to the survey do not currently have access to financing to restart after a closure. Moreover, there has been a five-fold increase in restaurants that are currently behind in paying their bills.
"Lagging tourism could lead to majority of Hawaii’s eateries shuttering by April, survey says," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, December 24, 2020
Yesterday, a study from the Bank of Hawaii Foundation reported that fifty-six percent of Hawai'i residents are currently struggling to pay their rent, mortgages, or utility bills, and that lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will only intensify this problem. Perhaps most distressing is the fact that this stat has climbed from forty-five percent a mere seven months ago.
"More Hawaii residents struggle to pay bills, survey indicates," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, December 26, 2020
Also noted in the Star-Advertiser article was the fact that nearly three of four residents around the state supported the original Safe Travels program which did not require travelers to present their negative test results at their point of embarkation in order to bypass the quarantine period. This, along with the commercial and financial findings above, confirm the basis of our most recent letter to Governor Ige. As you may recall, a hui of more than 20 different organizations representing private business entities, trade organizations, and labor requested alterations to the pre-arrival testing program including:
December 21, 2020
The United States Congress is poised to pass a second round of COVID-19 relief aimed at helping American residents and businesses. While the final language of the bill is not yet available, reports and communications from Congressional members indicate that the package will include the following critical items:
Today's edition of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser included a telling report from Waikiki Bureau Chief Allison Schaefers regarding HTA's most recent Resident Sentiment Survey and the current opinions of tourism among Hawai'i residents. Perhaps most telling is that resident support for tourism has fallen to its lowest level since 1988. Also troubling is the reported statistic that sixty-seven percent of respondents agreed with the statement that Hawai'i is being "run for tourists at the expense of local people". As a longtime member of this industry, I feel comfortable stating that these sentiments appear to be short-sighted and misguided.
Despite suffering an unprecedented downturn in business due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our industry has continued to provide needed services in support of our community. From opting to suspend businesses, to ensuring that health benefits were maintained as long as possible, to assisting our local government in maintaining quarantine, to offering up our businesses as places for COVID-positive patients to self-isolate, we have more than pulled our weight as a member of the community.
And this isn't limited to times of crisis.
Consider the Visitor Industry Charity Walk which annually distributes millions of dollars to nonprofits around the state. The same event has contributed more than $2 million over a couple of years with matching funds from the State in support of initiatives to combat homelessness. Consider also the dozens of scholarships that HLTA awards to Hawai'i students. Moreover, many of our local hotel properties also have numerous community service programs like Prince Waikiki's quarterly harbor clean-up, Kyo-ya's annual Thanksgiving Dinner which has been held for 25 years in partnership with the Salvation Army, the Hyatt Regency Waikiki's support of countless local charities such as the Make-A-Wish Hawaii Foundation annual golf tournament fundraiser, and Hilton Hawaiian Village’s plethora of fundraisers for Institute for Human Services, to name a few.
If anything, the results of this study have confirmed that our industry has a long road ahead of it. First and foremost, we must be focusing our efforts to restore travel to Hawai'i and bring as many of our people safely back to their jobs as possible. This is an area where HLTA has committed much of its energies- from establishing our health and safety protocols to petitioning Gov. Ige to make necessary changes to the Safe Travels program. But we must also be working tirelessly to demonstrate to the general public not only the economic stability that tourism provides through thousands of jobs and billions in revenues, but also the support that we, as an industry, give to local residents and the community as a whole.
In brighter news, two food distribution events were recently held on the Garden Isle with more than 8,000 pounds of food being distributed. Among these was an event held for employees of the Koloa Landing Resort which has remained open throughout the pandemic. Each Koloa team member received water, peanut butter, salmon, dried fruit, apple juice, rice, dish washing liquid, bread, eggs, kalua pig, two pounds of fresh Kaua'i Shrimp, and a five-pound box of fresh fruits and vegetables.
HLTA was proud to be able to support these events through a donation made possible through our #AlohaLater campaign. Mahalo to HLTA board member Stephanie Iona for her leadership and our Kaua'i Chapter, Kekaha Agricultural Association, Kaua'i Shrimp, ʻĀina Ho'okupu O Kilauea, the Hawai'i Foodbank Kaua'i Branch , and Senate President Ron Kouchi for making these events possible!
"Donations beef up food distributions," The Garden Island, December 18, 2020
Letter to Governor Ige
Yesterday afternoon, we sent another letter to Governor Ige requesting amendments to the current requirements of the State's pre-arrival testing program which now requires that travelers have their negative test results in hand before departure if they are to avoid the mandatory 10-day quarantine once arriving in Hawai'i.
The letter, which was signed by twenty-two different organizations representing private business, trade organizations, and labor, suggested the following:
Our communication to Governor Ige specifically focused on both the current economic strife being felt around our state, as well as the negative social effects caused by the pandemic. While it may be years before we truly understand these social impacts, it is clear that families are struggling in myriad ways and a surefire path to ease this suffering is to provide local workers with a means to earn a living while also maintaining their health and safety. We wholeheartedly believe that restoring our tourism economy and making travel to our state easy for tourists is the most expedient way to accomplish this.
Mahalo to the following organizations for joining us as signatories on this letter:
Governor Ige signed his 17th emergency proclamation relating to the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday afternoon. Most notably, this update and extension to his emergency orders reduces the mandatory quarantine period from 14 days to 10 days in accordance with the CDC's most recent guidance.
It is also important to remember that Governor Ige's current emergency orders requires that all operating hotels are required to adopt a COVID-19 health and safety plan that must also be submitted to the Hawai'i Tourism Authority. As a reminder, HLTA members may use our Health, Safety, & Security Standards as their submitted plan. It is critical that we are all up-to-date and complying with the State's mandates.
Should you have any questions or concerns regarding your health and safety plan, please feel free to contact our offices at any time.
Have a great weekend,
Pictured above are the four executive panelists from HLTA's airline discussion that was held during our 193rd General Membership Meeting last month.
As you may recall our General Membership Meeting included a first-class airline panel during which airline executives discussed the issues and challenges before them in helping Hawai'i's tourism industry recover responsibly and safely. The panel included: Southwest Airlines Executive Vice President & Chief Revenue Officer Andrew Watterson; Alaska Airlines Executive Vice President & Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Harrison; United Airlines Senior Vice President & Chief Customer Officer Toby Enqvist; and Hawaiian Airlines President & CEO Peter Ingram.
It was very gratifying to see Alaska Airlines announced today its Hawai'i Pre-Clear Program which will allow passengers traveling to Hawai'i to receive Safe Travels approval prior to departure, thereby reducing their wait time once arriving in Honolulu. This program, which is being launched in coordination with the State, was piloted on Maui and will be rolled out to all flights to Honolulu and Kona next week. Alaska Airlines is the first airline to install a program of this nature, and it is sure to be a positive for West Coast-based travelers moving forward.
This new program is in lock-step with other airline industry-wide efforts to better inform passengers what they can expect when traveling to Hawai'i. Airlines have all made significant changes to their their pre-travel notifications as well as informational efforts at check-in, in the departure lounge, and during boarding as well just before takeoff.
These are just some of the steps being taken by our airline partners to make travel possible and, more importantly, amenable for prospective tourists. Similarly, we are working with HTA and the State administration to address the critical need to identify hotels in each county that are willing to house COVID-19 positive travelers without reservations who need a place to self-isolate. This is a very important priority of the State Department of Health and HI-EMA. In our ongoing dialogue with both entities and the Governor's office, they are pleased that we have already identified hotels on Maui and O'ahu and are working to do the same on Kaua'i and Hawai'i Island.
Speaking of HTA and its President & CEO John De Fries, we continue our collaborative efforts to schedule sessions with our visitor industry stakeholders and our county mayors. This past week, we separately met with both Mayor Mike Victorino and Mayor Kirk Caldwell. Kudos to all of you that were able to attend these sessions.
I hope you have a safe and great weekend,
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