Free COVID-19 Testing
Today, Hawai'i officially passed the million-dose mark of vaccinations administered. This is a momentous milestone and a significant step towards herd immunity and the long-awaited return to normalcy.
Now, as tourism ramps up and the number of incoming travelers continues to increase, it is critical that hotel staff have access to free COVID-19 testing. We are grateful to announce that Mayor Rick Blangiardi, the City & County of Honolulu, and the National Kidney Foundation of Hawai'i are offering just that.
Testing is available at the following locations:
*Note: If you are onboarding employees or if they do not have a recent pay stub, hotel management can provide a letter stating that the employee in question is on staff and in need of a test.
There is a very simple process to register and appointments are not required in advance. To register, please use this link: oahucitypass.lumisight.com. For more information, you may also visit this website: kidneyhi.org/covid-19-testing-screening.
This is a fantastic resource for our industry, so please share this with anybody that you feel appropriate.
On Tuesday, I was joined by Sheraton Kauai Resort General Manager Chip Bahouth, Embassy Suites by Hilton Waikiki Beach Walk General Manager Simeon Miranda, Wailea Beach Resort General Manager Angela Vento, and Mauna Kea Resort's Vice President of Operations Craig Anderson for a roundtable discussion at the Hawai'i Chapter of the Appraisal Institute's General Membership Meeting. We had a great chat about a variety of topics concerning the local tourism industry including the economic recovery plans of each county in the wake of the pandemic, the changes that COVID-19 have wrought on the industry, and how we can manage tourism responsibly going forward.
Mahalo to Chip, Simeon, Angela, and Craig for joining me for such a riveting discussion and to the Appraisal Institute for hosting us!
Over the course of the weekend, the topic of vaccine passports gained considerable momentum, and comments that I provided to local media were picked up by various news outlets.
"Green hopes to roll out vaccine passport pilot for inter-island travel by May 1," Hawaii News Now, April 10, 2021
"Hawaii one step closer to vaccine exemption for travelers," KHON2, April 10, 2021
"Hawaii eyes summer rollout of a vaccine passport," Travel Weekly, April 10, 2021
"Hawaii’s Vaccine Passport Is Slated To Roll Out By Summer," Forbes, April 12, 2021
While I can appreciate the nuance of a subject as sensitive as vaccinations, our offices have been receiving emails and calls in opposition to the proposed vaccine passport for a number of easily disproven reasons. So for the sake of clarity, I want to make entirely clear HLTA's longstanding stance on the issue:
Vaccine passports are not mandatory, do not discriminate, and will not strip any person of their inalienable rights. As proposed by local government and other jurisdictions around the world, vaccine passports would make it easier to travel without being subjected to pre-arrival testing or mandatory quarantine periods. In Hawai'i's case, the Safe Travels requirements will remain in place as a public health safeguard for those individuals who have not yet been vaccinated or those who will opt to forgo vaccination altogether.
The COVID-19 vaccine was extensively trialed and received the FDA's Emergency Use Authorization. Extensive vaccination of the world's population will not only protect countless people from infection, but will also lessen the severity of your symptoms should you get infected, decrease the likelihood of new COVID-19 variants from spreading, and bring us closer to herd immunity and, by extension, normalcy in our everyday lives.
Yesterday morning, HLTA partnered with Aloha Harvest to host our latest food drive at 'Ilima Intermediate School to benefit furloughed hospitality workers and their families primarily from the Leeward side of O'ahu. This was another successful event thanks to our tireless partner Aloha Harvest and the hard working volunteers of missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. A special shout out as well to area Senator Kurt Fevella and his staff for helping us to secure the location and coordinate the logistics for the distribution itself.
As you know, the discussions surrounding the vaccine passport concept have been heating up throughout our community as well as in the halls of government. I have been a strong advocate for the establishment of such a passport both in the media and at the State Legislature.
"Hawaii to consider changes to Safe Travels program after latest CDC guidance," Travel Weekly, April 2, 2021
As I have said from the very beginning, we should be making it easier for healthy, vaccinated travelers to come to our state. As of this morning, more than 900,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to Hawai'i residents, signaling that we are well on our way to achieving the much sought after herd immunity. As the number of vaccinated Hawai'i residents continues to rise, we, as a state, should look to make travel as hassle-free as possible not only to bring more travel industry associates back to work but also the thousands of local residents who are furloughed or who are unemployed.
"Travel leaders urge Hawaii governor to update travel restrictions ASAP," KHON2, April 7, 2021
The Hawai'i Tourism Authority's funding is at stake as they are under fire from some members of the Legislature. During a joint hearing of the Senate Committees on Ways & Means and Commerce & Consumer Protection, members discussed House Bill 862, HD2, SD2 which, among other things, would significantly reduce the State tourism agency's annual funding. HTA would be forced to get their funding from the State's General Fund. After being voted upon on the Senate floor, the measure will go back to the House and possibly headed eventually to a Conference committee.
As you can imagine, HLTA is staunchly opposed to this measure and submitted testimony to this effect. Specifically, it is our position that HTA requires ample funding to adequately research local tourism and market our state on the national and international scale. It is critical that HTA receives the funding necessary to help sell what Hawai'i has to offer if we are to continue our economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yesterday, it was announced that Governor Ige had approved Maui's request that will require incoming travelers to submit to a mandatory rapid COVID-19 test upon arrival. Slated to begin in roughly two weeks, the program was requested by Mayor Victorino and will send travelers who refuse to take the test to a mandatory 10-day quarantine.
As part of his request, Mayor Victorino also indicated his support for a vaccine passport program. While he noted that it may take some time to implement it, his public advocacy for the vaccine passport concept is extremely pleasing to our industry, and we are hopeful that Gov. Ige will ultimately approve Mayor Victorino's proposed pilot program.
Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention issued updated guidance regarding travel that suggests that fully vaccinated people, meaning those that have received their shot(s) and waited the prescribed two weeks, can travel freely around the United States without pre-arrival testing or mandatory quarantine. The guidance also provided for international travel, stating the following:
"Hawaii travel restrictions might loosen as CDC guidelines change for those fully vaccinated," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, April 3, 2021
Our position remains that a vaccine passport is our state's best route toward the full restoration of travel and that a program of this nature could possibly start with interisland travel. This would allow fully vaccinated Hawai'i residents to move freely around the state, thereby allowing families to reconnect, those in need to seek critical medical treatment, and more. It would also serve as a proving ground for the vaccine passport program prior to allowing trans-Pacific and international travelers to come to Hawai'i without a pre-arrival test or a mandatory quarantine period.
"Hawaii visitor industry urges governor to loosen travel restrictions after latest CDC guidance," KHON2, April 2, 2021
All this being said, an effective and well-run vaccine passport program will still be contingent upon our community continuing to do the right things in regard to public health mandates. This includes the practice of proper social distancing and the diligent use of face coverings. Hawai'i is doing an outstanding job of vaccinating residents, but it will all be for naught should we have another outbreak of the virus or, even worse, of a variant.
Finally, enjoy your weekend and Happy Easter to you, your families, and loved ones!
Around the country, doses of the COVID-19 vaccine continue to be administered at a blistering pace. Nationwide, nearly 154 million individual doses have been distributed. Roughly 30% of the U.S. adult population has received at least the first shot, while 17% of the country is already fully vaccinated. Perhaps more importantly, 73.7% of Americans aged 65 or older have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Locally, Hawai'i residents have also been receiving their vaccinations in great numbers. More than 450,000 people, or 31% of the population, have already received at least one dose of the vaccine. Meanwhile, nearly 20% of Hawai'i residents are already fully vaccinated.
Since the State began Phase-1C of the vaccination schedule, local hospitality workers have also been quickly receiving their vaccinations, and there are still many appointments available. The overall response from those who have started to receive their vaccinations has been heartwarming to say the least. Numerous individuals from the various corners of the tourism sector have reached out to share their excitement regarding their vaccination, and even MidWeek has a shoutout to HLTA in Director of Content Ron Nagasawa's "What's Next?" column.
As a reminder, you may continue to send your lists of associates to be vaccinated to email@example.com. Hospitality workers can also find appointments and more information at this link.
The monthly hospitality industry update meeting with Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, which we co-sponsor with HTA, has been scheduled for Tuesday, April 6 at 11:30 am. The meeting will be held over Zoom and is open to all HLTA members.
To register for the meeting, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mayor Blangiardi has been extremely receptive to these meetings, and they have been highly productive. If you are available, I recommend that you tune in.
Other Media That May Interest You
As you know, HLTA has continued to push for the establishment of a "vaccine passport" that would allow adequately vaccinated travelers to be exempt from the mandatory quarantine period. This is a hot topic of late with myriad discussions happening at the State Legislature as well as in the media.
"Hawaii moving forward using coronavirus vaccine passport for travel," KHON2, March 30, 2021
"Hawaii explores use of vaccine passports for inter-island travel," USA Today, April 1, 2021
KHON2 also ran a story yesterday that focused on the high demand for rental cars as Hawai'i continues to see visitor arrivals increase. The article, as well as the topic it focused upon, really highlighted the pent up demand for travel that exists across the country right now which bodes well for our overall economic recovery.
"Rental car shortage in Hawaii spikes prices in the hundreds," KHON2, March 31, 2021
In closing, I would just like to wish you all the best for a relaxing Easter holiday. I hope that you are able to relax and enjoy it with your 'ohana.
A Hui Hou!
Michael Jokovich recently announced that he has been promoted and will soon be leaving us to oversee a portfolio of properties on the East Coast as Hyatt's Senior Vice President of Field Operations.
As many of you know, my longtime buddy Joko is an accomplished veteran of our industry with decades of experience culminating most recently as area vice president for Hyatt Hotels Hawaii and more than four years as the general manager of the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort. He has lived and worked extensively in Hawai'i and truly exemplifies what it means to be kamaʻāina.
Joko has always been active in our community, serving twice as HLTA chairperson, as a board member of both the Maui Hotel & Lodging Association and the Wailea Community Association, and as a member of the advisory council for the University of Hawai'i College of Business Travel Industry Management program. As HLTA's chairperson, he led us through an unprecedented pandemic with quiet but steadfast leadership, and I could not be more grateful for such an excellent chairperson and partner to work with throughout the worst days of COVID-19.
Though he will soon be leaving the islands, I know this is not a final goodbye. As 'a hui hou' really means: until we meet again. In short- to Michael and Debbie, from all of your colleagues and friends at HLTA, we say: Aloha Later!
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
Visitor Public Safety Conference
Earlier this week, we hosted our third annual Visitor Public Safety Conference via Zoom. Made possible in partnership with the Waikiki Improvement Association, the Waikiki Business Improvement District Association, the Hawai‘i Hotel Visitor Industry Security Association, Retail Merchants of Hawai‘i, and the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawai‘i, the conference featured a slate of speakers and panelists from a variety of backgrounds including state and county government, law enforcement, the visitor industry, and the nonprofit sector.
As you know, past iterations of the VPSC have brought together community stakeholders and policymakers who were able to enact meaningful changes on various issues. Over the past few days, we have been working to distill the information gleaned from the conference in order to identify the key areas upon which to focus.
Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard kicked off the morning by raising two longstanding topics that affect the travel industry and the Waikiki neighborhood in general: human trafficking and homelessness.
Human trafficking is an issue that those of us in the lodging industry are uniquely positioned to help tackle and an area that HLTA has focused its efforts on in the past. You may recall that we partnered with Ho'ōla Nā Pua to host a series of symposiums in each of the four counties that provided hotel staff with tools and strategies to identify and report suspected instances of human trafficking. Using what we learned during these sessions, HLTA issued its Human Trafficking Disruption Plan in January of 2020.
On the homelessness front, HPD Major Mark Criccio used the VPSC as an opportunity to announce a new program to address public safety in Waikiki. The P.E.A.C.E program (Proactive Enforcement Against Criminal Elements), is a two-tiered approach to tackling chronic issues within the district, most notably homelessness. The first tier is education and outreach. Any time that a homeless individual is observed breaking the law for the first time, they will be offered access to social services through organizations such as IHS and the Hawai'i Health & Harm Reduction Center. This could include anything from medical care to being assisted in obtaining identification. In the first six weeks of the program, P.E.A.C.E officers made meaningful contacts with 144 individuals in the Waikiki area. Of these, 70 accepted help or accessed needed services.
The second tier is zero tolerance enforcement. If an individual refuses help during their first contact with HPD and are observed breaking the law again, they will be immediately cited or arrested. In the time since the program's inception, P.E.A.C.E officers have issued 425 citations and made 61 arrests.
In a follow-up meeting with District 6 Captain Herbert Soria and Acting Lieutenant Blake Arita, the initiative's founder, we also learned that HPD has built close relationships with ABC Stores and is looking to do likewise with other business partners in the Waikiki area.
Our VPSC Planning Committee will met next week to discuss how we, as a community, can follow-up and follow through on the things we learned from this year's conference.
I've shared a recording of the VPSC above. You'll be able to listen to remarks from Lt. Gov. Josh Green, HI-EMA Director General Kenneth Hara, Mayor Rick Blangiardi, Senate Tourism Chair Glenn Wakai, House Tourism Chair Richard Onishi, and Council Chair Tommy Waters. You will also be able to watch panel discussions covering everything from youth crime, to homelessness, to COVID-19. Watching the recording of this year's conference will truly give you a sense of how diverse and knowledgeable our speakers are.
Yesterday, we joined HTA and the Department of Health to host two webinars aimed at familiarizing general managers, executives, and HR directors with the processes needed to sign their associates up for a vaccination appointment. DOH Deputy Director Cathy Ross led these discussions and detailed the options that hospitality industry members have to seek out a vaccination.
She also answered numerous questions covering a wide range of subjects pertaining to the vaccination and simplified the process for us all. A video recording of the event is linked above and is also posted on HLTA's website homepage. It is a relatively short webinar, and I highly encourage you to take some time to watch it.
The early reports regarding the vaccination of local hospitality workers has been outstanding. I am beyond pleased that so many of the men and women who represent the backbone of our industry are actively seeking out the vaccination so quickly. As a reminder, appointments are contingent upon local vaccine supply, so, if your associates haven't been able to get an appointment, please continue to encourage them to check online or call for openings.
Despite the early success of Phase-1C of the vaccination schedule, HLTA and HTA will still be co-sponsoring two webinars that will be held tomorrow with Department of Health Deputy Director Cathy Ross. These webinars are aimed at hotel GMs, HR directors, and those Allied members who will be scheduling vaccinations for their staff. Originally slated to specifically discuss the logistics of the vaccine rollout, the webinar will now also allow for Deputy Director Ross to answer questions about the ongoing process.
These webinars have been scheduled for March 18, 2021 at the following times:
Woman of the Year
HLTA Women in Lodging & Tourism Committee Advisory Board Members from left: Ameresco Account Executive Dricka Thobois, Residence Inn by Marriott Oahu Kapolei Director of Sales & Marketing Kelly Kitashima, 2021 Woman of the Year Julie Morikawa from ClimbHI, International Market Place General Manager Breana Grosz, HVCB Director of Membership Karen Wataru Nakaoka, and Marriott Vacations Worldwide Market General Manager Angela Nolan who raised their glasses to WIL's Woman of the Year at virtual venue sponsor International Market Place.
Congratulations to HLTA's Women in Lodging & Tourism Committee, led by HLTA Board Member Angela Nolan, on their wonderful virtual event that honored 2021 Woman of the Year Julie Morikawa, the president and executive director of ClimbHI. No stranger to Hawaii’s hospitality industry, her local nonprofit organization works to inspire students to finish high school and pursue higher education by exposing them to possible career paths and the processes necessary to achieve these goals.
This year's iteration of our annual event raised monies to benefit ClimbHI and National Public Radio. It included music from 'Elua Kane and guest mixologist Alicia Yamachika who crafted a cocktail for the evening’s festivities.
Please join me in giving a warm welcome to our newest HLTA board member Ha'aheo Zablan. Ha'aheo is the general manager of the Kaimana Beach Hotel and has an extensive history in our local lodging industry including stints at the Waikiki Beach Marriott, 'Aulani, and the Kahala Resort & Hotel. He took over the top job at the Kaimana Beach Hotel in 2020, and we are looking forward to working closely with him in the future.
Earlier today, HTA President & CEO John De Fries and I met with Department of Health Deputy Director Cathy Ross to discuss the logistics of the vaccine roll-out for hospitality workers which is slated to begin on Monday to coincide with the transition to Phase-1C. After conferring with her, it was ultimately decided that all HLTA members- including Allied members- should submit their lists of prioritized employees to our office as soon as possible. Please include the legal name, phone number, email address, and the home zip code for every employee as this will help DOH schedule these workers for an appointment at a vaccination pod near their residence.
Lists may be submitted to email@example.com at any time.
**Note: Even if you have already submitted an employee list to DOH, please email your list to HLTA anyway. This will help to lessen any possibility of your employees inadvertently slipping through the cracks.
As I reported earlier this week, HLTA had been working closely with HTA and DOH to prioritize our workers in the State's vaccination schedule and were keenly focused on the actual logistics of the vaccine roll-out. We had scheduled and confirmed two webinars with Deputy Director Ross that were to be aimed at providing GMs and HR directors with the information needed to schedule upcoming vaccinations for their staff. However, in light of the recent announcement by the State regarding the vaccination schedule, these webinars will now take a slightly different tack, and Deputy Director Ross will not only cover logistics, but also field any questions regarding the vaccination process.
These webinars have been scheduled in conjunction with HTA for March 18, 2021 at the following times:
Tier 3 Amendments
Yesterday, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced adjustments to Tier 3 in Honolulu's recovery plan. Per his announcement, there are several significant changes:
We are less than a week away from our 3rd Annual Visitor Public Safety Conference, and we are pleased to see so many of you have already registered for the event. This year, we have an especially outstanding cast of speakers and panels, and it stands to be our most successful VPSC to date. In addition to our individual speakers which include Lt. Gov. Josh Green, Mayor Rick Blangiardi, HPD Chief Susan Ballard, Council Chair Tommy Waters, Senate Tourism Chair Glenn Wakai, and House Tourism Chair Richard Onishi among others, attendees will also be able to view and participate in the following discussion panels:
Stay in the know
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