House Bill 1286
Yesterday, House Bill 1286, HD2, which codified statewide travel rules, was deferred during a joint hearing of the Senate Energy, Economic Development, & Tourism, Public Safety, Intergovernmental, & Military Affairs, and Health Committees.
In our most recent testimony on the measure, we indicated our continued support for the establishment of statewide rules and also suggested the addition of language that would create a "vaccine passport" that would allow vaccinated travelers to travel freely to and around Hawai'i. Hawai'i, first starting with interisland flights. There was significant testimony supporting the measure, and we were grateful for those who showed up to provide verbal comments. Unfortunately, Senate Tourism Chair Glenn Wakai noted on behalf of the hearing's co-chairs, Senators Clarence Nishihara and Jarrett Keohokalole, that a significant number of concerns and questions was reason enough to defer HB1286, HD2.
Although this is not the way we had hoped this hearing would play out, we knew from the very beginning that this measure faced an uphill battle to passage in the Senate. In fact, it's worth noting that the initial referral for the bill in the Senate did not even include the Tourism Committee.
Despite this setback, the spirit of HB1286 is still alive. In yesterday's meeting of the House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic & Financial Preparedness, Rep. Linda Ichiyama reported that the language originally found in HB1286 has been inserted into Senate Bill 266 which will next be heard by the Committee on Finance before going to conference committee.
As I noted in comments to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, a vaccine passport may be the key to recovering our economy through tourism, and the issue merits further discussion and consideration. It is important to note that a vaccine exemption would not only benefit tourists but also local residents who could utilize it to travel between counties to visit their 'ohana or even seek medical care.
HLTA recognizes the importance of quickly and adequately vaccinating the local populace and our industry's workforce, and we are continuing to work closely with the State Department of Health to achieve this.
Hawaii News Now Interview
Early this morning I joined Hawaii News Now's Samie Molina at the airport to discuss the recent surge in visitors that we have been experiencing. It was great to be able to share with viewers the optimism that many in our industry are beginning to feel. Whether it be from starting the vaccination process, or lodging properties being able to bring their associates back to work, our local tourism industry is definitely on the upswing and, after a year of depressed travel, this optimism could not be more welcome.
Other Media That May Interest You
Over the weekend, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser ran two articles from Waikiki Bureau Chief Allison Schaefers that recapped our 3rd Annual Visitor Public Safety Conference and drilled down into some of the critical issues that were raised at this year's event.
"Crime rates in Waikiki have plummeted and police and visitor industry leaders want to keep it that way," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, March 21, 2021
It was outstanding coverage for our first-ever virtual event during which our speakers and panelists focused on myriad issues including the COVID-19 pandemic, homelessness, illegal gambling, and human trafficking. As a reminder, you can view the recording of the entire conference here.
"Visitor industry on the lookout for sex trafficking, gambling in Waikiki," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, March 21, 2021
Hawaii News Now also ran a report that delved into the issue of masks and the perception that it's only tourists who aren't wearing them. I was grateful to see that Chelsea Davis rounded out the piece by noting that mask mandate offenders are both travelers and residents alike. Let's make sure we continue to be vigilant in reminding our guests and associates of the importance of wearing our masks and maintaining social distancing.
"Amid a boom in visitors, Waikiki also sees an increase in people not wearing masks," Hawaii News Now, March 22, 2021
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