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
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