Mufi's Message, 01.04.19
Looking Forward: Announcing Our 2019 Legislative Priorities
With the Legislative Session opening in just under two weeks, I am pleased to share with you HLTA’s Government Affairs position statements:
The Airports Corporation, in which all airports now managed by the state government would be directed by a public corporation, remains a top priority for HLTA. This proposal has been before the legislature three times, but has unfortunately been killed in the final hour on each occasion. This year we will once again advocate for its early passage and approval by the governor.
The establishment of an Airports Corporation should enable projects and improvements to be completed faster and more cost-effectively than under the current system. The condition of our airports makes the first and last impressions on our millions of visitors, and it is high time we had a corporation like this to make the changes and enhancements the airports need without the delays created by a large bureaucracy. Even better, this corporation will be in place at absolutely no additional expense to taxpayers, as the airlines themselves will help foot the bill.
Transient Vacation Rentals (TVRs)
The issue of transient vacation rentals remains a major priority of the HLTA. Proposed measures addressing this issue have failed to pass both legislative bodies for three years now, and we have since focused our attention on the county fronts. Over the past year, each of the counties has established (and some have executed) plans to better regulate the illegal short-term rental market.
From an advocacy perspective, we will continue to work with the Legislature on supporting legislation that will create parity between the traditional brick-and-mortar hotel industry and transient vacation rentals, using the momentum that the counties have started. Our goals remain:
1. Transparency, openness and accountability for both the online platforms and the individual operators.
2. Creating provisions to address the registration of transient vacation rentals and requiring hosting platforms to further provide detailed information to the department of taxation on the operators from which they are collecting taxes.
3. Holding the online operators responsible for delisting transient vacation rentals from their sites that do not comply with registration requirements.
Over the past five years, HLTA and its members have raised well over $2.5 million to relieve the homelessness situation throughout Hawai'i. Last year, we helped pass a bill that would allow the state to distribute matching funds to agencies working with the homeless in tourism-impacted areas. The HLTA is currently working with the Hawai'i Tourism Authority and Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism to use the allocated $1 million in state matching funds to assist programs dealing with this multi-faceted issue.
Taking a page from the Visitor Crime Solutions Conference that took place in 1997, last year HLTA partnered with visitor industry, public safety, youth, and military stakeholders to host the first-ever Visitor Public Safety Conference. Much like the 1997 conference, which led to the creation of the Waikiki Business Improvement District and the Ambassadors of Aloha, we utilized this workshop to develop initiatives for us to act upon, such as the creation of an ad hoc committee to address the issue of cabaret licensed establishments in Waikiki. Police have acknowledged that there has been a lessening of criminal activity during 2018 surrounding the cabaret licensed areas but more needs to be done. This year, we will host the second iteration of this conference early in the legislative session to:
1. Give an overview of public safety statistics.
2. Address key initiatives being proposed at both the state and county levels where support from the industry would be welcomed.
3. Follow-up with advocacy efforts at both the Legislature and county councils.
HLTA also believes that we should continue best efforts at the federal, state and county levels working with all stakeholders to ensure that our communities and islands are prepared to deal with all natural or man-made disasters. Emergency preparedness initiatives at all levels should be supported and emphasized. For example, HLTA supports the implementation of a long overdue flood control mitigation plan for the Ala Wai Canal.
Transient Accommodations Tax on Resort Fees
Last year, HLTA and the visitor industry staved off an erroneous bill that would have incorporated the transient accommodations tax on all amenities and services within a hotel/resort. We can expect that there could be another attempt to tax the hotel industry’s “resort fee." HLTA’s stance has always been to oppose increases to our hotel tax and the cost of doing business. Instead, we support collecting the TAT from Transient Vacation Rentals that are not paying their fair share of taxes.
We also continue our strong support for TAT funding priorities to be allocated for marketing funds for HTA, assistance to all four counties and support for the Hawai'i Convention Center.
Sports and Cultural Tourism
Working with the Hawai'i Tourism Authority and the Hawai'i Visitors and Convention Bureau, more should be done to attract and encourage world-class sporting, entertainment and cultural activities to come to Hawai'i, providing that such events generate substantive economic benefits to the state. Support should not be limited to marketing funds for these initiatives but also to the renovation and construction of state and county facilities to host these types of events.
One of the challenges that the visitor industry faces is ensuring we have an educated and well-trained workforce that can assume the many jobs and responsibilities in the industry. HLTA prioritizes and spends considerable time and effort in strengthening workforce development within our educational institutions, touching upon the middle school, high school, community college, and university levels state- wide. We award tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships annually, we nurture growth with young people in the industry, we inspire student engagement with the professional world, we encourage internships with our member organizations and we involve our industry leaders in mentoring opportunities. Additionally, one of our overarching goals is to assist and help Hawai’i public schools to seek national accreditation for their hospitality and culinary academies.
We applaud the diversification efforts that our state is making to help bolster our economy, but at the end of the day tourism will remain our bread and butter, our core competence. The realm of hospitality touches all facets of education and employment. To this end, we have also established committees, councils and initiatives, such as our Generational Mentoring (GM) Program, Engineers Advisory Council, Human Resources Council, Hospitality’s Young Professionals & Entrepreneurs, and our Hospitality Housekeepers Council, to name a few, that support our endeavors in various fields and professions. We look forward to continuing working with public and private partners, industry stakeholders, such as the Hawaii Tourism Association, to support meaningful, substantive measures and initiatives that meet the challenges of our time.
Managing Tourism Better: Quality Tourism Over Quantity Tourism
At times, tourism can become a victim of its own success. Many are referring to the global phenomenon of dramatic tourism growth as “over-tourism.” Many destinations around the world have resorted to measures to curb the growth of visitors, some of them draconian. That need not be the case in Hawai'i if we put in place ways to accommodate growth while preserving our quality-of-life and natural resources. We need to manage tourism better - not just market for quantity in tourism numbers, but constantly identify and incorporate measures that will focus on attracting quality tourism. Currently, the Counties of Kaua‘i and Maui have formulated and adopted tourism strategic plans to address the challenges of tourism growth and development, HLTA’s goal is to work with all visitor industry stakeholders and partners and the public to encourage similar plans for the City and County of Honolulu, the County of Hawai‘i, and for the state as a whole.
HLTA's Holiday Party Next Week
As we ring in the new year, please join us in saying mahalo nui loa to former Vice President Dean Nakasone as we thank him for everything he has done for the HLTA, and to wish him the best in all his future endeavors. We will also be welcoming Edgar Palafox as HLTA's new Senior Director of Operations, and congratulating longtime board member Chris Tatum as he steps into his new role as President & CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
We know how much our HLTA ohana loves themed parties, so we are excited to bring to you: "Filmed in Hawaii." Come dressed up as your favorite character from a movie or television show filmed in Hawaii, and you may just win a prize!
We hope that you will celebrate a successful 2018 and a fruitful 2019 with us on January the 10th. Tickets can be purchased here.
Na Po'e Pa'ahana
Next week, we will be holding our 29th annual Na Po’e Pa’ahana Awards at the Sheraton Waikiki. This event is an absolute fan-favorite as it serves to recognize the “hard-working people” of Hawai‘i’s number one industry: tourism. These are often the unsung heroes of hospitality who contribute to making Hawai‘i’s visitor industry no ka oi.
Aside from the eight traditional Na Po’e Pa’ahana Award categories, HLTA also awards a highly coveted accolade to an allied (non-lodging) member of HLTA, who has gone above and beyond the call in supporting the association’s mission of education, advocacy, and philanthropy. However, it is my belief that : 1) The industry cannot be thanked enough for what they do, and 2) there are a lot of people who contribute to the tourism industry and its well-being. So upon my return to the helm of HLTA I have taken the initiative to grow these special awards. In 2016, we added three new awards to highlight individuals, groups, hotels, and companies who exemplify leadership and aloha in the fields of sustainability, education, and legacy of contributions to Hawai‘i. Following the establishment of these awards we subsequently turned the spotlight to distinguish a chef or restaurateur from the industry, and a hotel who has portrayed excellence in the realm of community service.
This year, honors at the Na Po’e Pa’ahana luncheon have grown further as we are launching two new awards. Upon the recommendation of HLTA’s former Chairman, Gregg Nelson of the Napili Kai Beach Resort, we will now recognize an individual allied member from HLTA who has committed a great deal of time and energy to engage with our committees, programs, and initiatives. Additionally, as we prepare for the Festival of the Pacific Arts and Culture in 2020, I found it appropriate to inaugurate the Pūlamahia Award, which will be given to a lodging property that cares for and cherishes the Hawaiian culture in their daily operations, management, and through their acts of Aloha. Hope to see you at the Sheraton Waikiki!
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