On Friday morning, Highgate Hotels Senior Vice President of Operations Kelly Sanders and I participated in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser's Spotlight Hawaii series to discuss a variety of topics surrounding the resurgence of travel to the islands including projections for the remainder of the summer season, the current profile of travelers, and recent crime in Waikiki. As expected, a portion of the conversation also touched on the renewed calls for better management of Hawai'i's tourism industry.
“Long before the pandemic, we recognized that it was important to manage tourism better and not put all our eggs in the basket of marketing tourism,” Hannemann said.
“….One lesson that we’ve learned from this pandemic is how totally dependent everyone is on tourism. Like it, loathe it, what have you, but this is the engine that drives our economy. We can continue to pursue economic diversification initiatives and the like, but at the end of the day, especially now, it’ll come back to tourism.”
-HLTA President & CEO Mufi Hannemann, Honolulu Star-Advertiser Spotlight Hawai'i
Kelly, in particular, discussed the significant role that HTA will play in the ongoing recovery of the local tourism industry and the management of tourism moving forward while we both discussed the threats currently facing the State's tourism agency- namely House Bill 862 which was passed during the recent Legislative Session.
Many of our concerns with HB 862 were reiterated in a recent deep dive by the Star-Advertiser's editorial staff who recently delved into some of the more problematic measures passed by the Legislature this year. Key among these were the disruption of HTA's funding and operations at an inopportune time, as well as the decision to strip the counties of their transient accommodations tax (TAT) allocations and replacing it with the option of raising the TAT by an additional 3%.
It was perhaps the publication's most visible call for a veto of HB 862 as we near June 21st the deadline by which Governor Ige must release his intent to veto list.
The news broke in the Star-Advertiser today that the Hawai'i Convention Center lost one of its biggest contracts for the year when the American Association of Orthodontists, which would have brought 17,000 attendees to Honolulu, moved its planned conference to Miami due to the lack of clarity in State and county rules for meetings and conventions.
It is imperative that our government leaders issue clear rules and requirements for this sector of the industry as soon as possible because entities like the convention center, hotels and resorts, and other hosts need adequate time to sell their venue space and coordinate event logistics. This is an issue that we've run into firsthand at HLTA as we navigate the planning process for the Hawai'i Hotel & Restaurant Show.
The Star-Advertiser also ran an article discussing the positive results the film industry is currently experiencing in the islands. I have long said that film and sports initiatives are two specific areas that Hawai'i should always be promoting due to its synergistic relationship with tourism and it’s proven ability to stimulate the economy.
You may recall that the "Temptation Island" reality show was filmed in a resort bubble at the Andaz Maui at Wailea resort under the leadership of Hyatt executive Mike Jokovich to great success. The series will return to the islands this fall to film its next season. Kudos to Maui Mayor Mike Victorino, the State Film Office, and Maui County Film Office Commissioner Tracy Bennett who worked with the ILWU and the IATSE to lead the charge on this front. Our future is bright if we can continue to tap into these industries moving forward.
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