In communications to you last week, I raised several areas of concern regarding the rollout of Honolulu's new transient accommodations tax and noted that I had requested a meeting with Mayor Blangiardi on the matter.
This morning, representatives from Hyatt, Halekulani Corporation, Prince Resorts, Marriott, Highgate Hotels, Aqua-Aston Hospitality, joined me in a productive meeting with the mayor, City Budget Director Andrew Kawano and his Deputy Director Carrie Castle, Corporation Counsel Dana Viola, and Chief of Staff Sam Moku to express our concerns with the OTAT, the ordinance's effective date, and other administrative issues that have arisen. Mahalo to Mayor Blangiardi who, recognizing the seriousness of the situation, quickly convened a meeting for us to work towards an amicable solution.
Going into the meeting, I especially wanted to draw the administration's attention to Section 8A-1.23 which authorizes the Budget Director to adopt administrative rules for the OTAT assessment and collection process pursuant to Chapter 91 of the Hawai'i Revised Statutes and asks for public input. Kudos to our members in the meeting who did an excellent job of stating the plight and predicament the hotel industry finds itself in given the short timetable.
We are all well aware of the various issues surrounding the OTAT, and it was refreshing to hear that the administration recognized that there is an air of confusion at this time and that they understand the quandary the industry finds itself in with the instant implementation of the tax. I urged Mayor Blangiardi and his administration to be both flexible and fair as they begin to collect the OTAT, and they agreed that they would be as accommodating as possible as the new tax goes into effect.
Mayor Blangiardi noted that Deputy Budget Director Carrie Castle will serve as the point of contact for any and all OTAT inquiries and asked that these be emailed directly to BFS@honolulu.gov. Moreover, it was also suggested that lodging operations do their utmost best to document everything related to the OTAT as best as possible. This includes correspondence with travel partners and guests, administrative rollout of the new tax, and work orders for website and collateral updates to name a few examples. If you can show that you have been conscientious in implementing the OTAT, the administration will be understanding and flexible when reviewing the first collection and will try to accommodate any issues that crop up in the coming months.
HLTA will continue to serve as a resource for you as the OTAT goes into effect. Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact me or my VP of Government & Community Affairs Jared Higashi at firstname.lastname@example.org at any time.
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