HLTA Position Statements
HLTA's 2018 PUBLIC AFFAIRS
The mission of the Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association is to
Provide Advocacy, Education, & Philanthropy to the Hospitality Industry
The Airport Corporation, in which all airports now managed by the state government would be directed by a public corporation, remains a top priority for HLTA. This proposal appears to have legislative momentum as we again advocate for its early passage and approval by the governor. An independent administrative structure to manage our airports should enable projects and improvements to be completed faster and more cost-effectively than under the current system. The condition of our airports makes the first and last impressions on our millions of visitors, and it is high time we had a corporation like this to make the changes and enhancements the airports need without the delays created by a large bureaucracy. Even better, this corporation will be in place at absolutely no additional expense to taxpayers, as the airlines themselves will help foot the bill. Last year, this legislation appeared to be headed for passage, but ultimately failed to win approval. This time a lot of work has been done by the Airlines Committee of Hawaii, supported by organizations such as ours , to address concerns raised by the attorney general , the public sector unions and others during the last session . We are also hopeful the that the Corporation board when formed will include members well - versed in the hospitality industry.
Transient Vacation Rentals (TVRs)
Another priority this session remains the regulation of Transient Vacation Rentals. HLTA created an ad hoc committee consisting of board members and visitor industry stakeholders that has been holding regular meetings on TVRs. From an advocacy perspective, we will continue to work with the Legislature and county councils on supporting legislation that will create parity between the traditional brick-and-mortar hotel industry and the short-term online rental market. At the state level, we are looking to the San Francisco legislation as a model to incorporate key points in our local endeavors, which include:
Over the past four years, HLTA and our members have raised well over $2 million to relieve the homelessness situation throughout Hawaii. Last year, we helped pass a bill that would allow the state to distribute matching funds to agencies working with the homeless in tourism-impacted areas. However, this bill has been held up by the executive branch because there are issues with its language, which was amended during conference committee. This year, we will again advocate for the passage of a measure that will seek public monies to match private dollars for non-profit organizations combating homelessness in tourism related areas.
Our fourth legislative priority this year will be to direct a laser-like focus on public safety across the state. We are working with stakeholders from both the public and private sectors to organize a Visitor Public Safety Conference in late February. We will be taking a page from the Visitor Crime Solutions Conference that took place in 1997 and will include input from partners such as the Honolulu Police Department, Hawai‘i Hotel Visitor Industry Security Association, Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Consular Corps, and organizations dealing with juvenile groups and visitor safety. Much like the 1997 conference, which led to the creation of the Waikiki Business Improvement District and the Ambassadors of Aloha, we plan on using this workshop to develop initiatives for us to act on or which need follow-up at the legislative level.
HLTA'S WATCH LIST
Transient Accommodations Tax Increases:
The Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association opposes any increases in the Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT) or additional taxes directed at the hospitality industry. During the 2017 legislative special session the hospitality industry took a hit through a 1 percent increase to the TAT across the state earmarked to fund the Honolulu Rail Project. As proponents for the rail project we were adamantly opposed to this drastic increase to the TAT rate. We favored that the funding for rail continue to come from the GET, a a fairer and more reliable source of funding. Another preferable option would be for the state and county governments to target and pursue transient vacation units so that they can collect the millions of dollars in TAT and General Excise Taxes currently being avoided by many operators.
Creation of new taxes and surcharges that would affect the hospitality industry:
HLTA opposes any further increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax and additional surcharges and taxes imposed specifically on the hospitality industry. Last year we opposed a proposal to add an additional tax to the furnishing of transient accommodations for the purpose of funding the public education system, a bill that may once again be brought to the table in 2018.
Hawai‘i has reached the point where added taxes hurt business. As a resort destination, our taxes are higher than many of our competitors and the already high business cost and tax rates make it increasingly difficult for businesses to be both profitable and competitive.
Increasing the cost of doing business (i.e., minimum wage increases, mandatory sick leave, etc):
The visitor industry is highly competitive, and higher taxes and operating costs can only hurt businesses in Hawai‘i. Our competitors often have lower room rates due to the lower overall cost of doing business (labor, property taxes, utilities, fees, etc.). In Hawai‘i, high business costs and tax rates make it increasingly difficult for businesses to be profitable and competitive, both in the domestic and international markets. The HLTA remains vigilant in opposing proposals that would raise the cost of business operations in the state.
The Aloha Stadium has been our largest sports facility since its opening in 1975. Now approaching its 43rd anniversary, the facility has been the home of University of Hawai‘i Rainbow Warriors football, host for the National Football League Pro Bowl and prep football, and the site of major concerts and large gatherings, but has not fully realized its potential as a major sports and entertainment venue. By expanding the powers and responsibilities of the stadium authority , we envision an expedited process in which we plan for a new stadium, the utilization of public private partnerships, and an overall boost to sports and entertainment to our islands.
Diversification must blend a mixture of visitor industry and non-visitor industry activities. Our core competence has always been tourism . By capitalizing on our strength as having a strong and robust hospitality industry, efforts should be made to promote and encourage a synergistic relationship with tourism with all segments of the economy. In this regard, there should be increased support for growth industries such as diversified agriculture, the film industry, medical services, and high technology. HLTA also supports the use and promotion of products grown and or made in Hawai‘i.
Beyond the legislative session, HLTA will be keeping a close eye on the 2018 election. As was announced at HLTA’s General Membership meeting in October, we will rally the industry and make sure our voices are heard during this upcoming election. We will be holding an extensive candidate endorsement process and providing more meaningful opportunities for the candidates that we identify as strong supporters to solicit and garner our support. This includes forums and speaking opportunities for endorsed candidates, walk-throughs of hotel properties and member businesses, sign-waving, and more. We will also be partnering with other trade groups and economic development organizations that share our positions to make a stand for candidates who support our mutual objectives. We want it to be known that an endorsement from HLTA means strong backing by the entire hospitality industry.
HLTA's Legislative stances: