I’d like to wish you all a Hau'oli lā hānau! This month we celebrate the Hawaiʻi Hotel Alliance’s second anniversary since our incorporation in February of 2021. When we launched HHA our mission was clear: to be the voice of Hawaiʻi’s Hotel owners and operators. Together with your leadership, we have done just that.
In two short years our membership has grown to include more than 31,000 hotel rooms, making The Hawaiʻi Hotel Alliance the largest hotel association in our State.We have engaged in securing positive outcomes in elections, invested in reshaping kama’āina sentiment towards our industry which for the first time in a decade is trending positive, and HHA has provided critical information and advocacy to key policy makers on issues affecting our industry and the communities we serve. I am proud of the work we have done together, our growth (1,300 rooms added in the last two months alone), and our early success, but there remains plenty of road ahead as we navigate a challenging legislative session and uncertain macroeconomic factors (like the cooling airfare wars, inflation, and a looming recession).
We are nearing the midpoint of the Hawaiʻi State Legislature’s 2023 Regular Session, a period known as “crossover.” A staggering 3,132 unique bills were introduced at the Hawaiʻi State Legislature this year.
By March 9th, for one of these measures to remain viable for the session it must have been heard and approved by all of the committees to which the bill has been referred in the originating chamber and transmitted to the non-originating chamber. This crossover of bills from the House to the Senate and vice-versa typically whittles the bill count to less than half of the bills that were introduced. Now’s the time to really pay attention to priority matters. Looking ahead, our March newsletter will include a recap of all measures that made the March 9th deadline and flag priority measures for HHA membership.
For the Hawaiʻi Hotel Alliance, our focus during this critical period at the legislature will remain on providing a balanced and informed voice to some of the more aggressive policies being discussed. We are supporting measures that seek to disincentivize short term rentals, while we have offered guidance on fees that would add an effective landing tax by suggesting that these “Green Fees” are better for our community if they are site-specific user fees for our wahi pana (sacred spaces) like the fees we charge at Le‘ahi State Monument (Diamond Head).
Concurrently, DBEDT and HTA are working feverishly to award the bifurcated destination stewardship / visitor education and the U.S. brand management and marketing contracts.Proposals for these contracts are due by March 30th, with an expeditious award anticipated and a work period that would begin on June 1, 2023 and end on December 31, 2025. The Hawaiʻi Hotel Alliance has provided voluminous information on the importance of these contracts to key stakeholders on this issue that include The Green Administration - to include the Governor and DBEDT Director, to the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, to industry partners, and to community advocates. Our consistent position has been the need to ensure continuity in marketing and the swift deployment of stewardship and education efforts that builds on the great work that our hotel and lodging establishments have been providing on this front for more than a generation.
If you would like to get involved in our engagement with our State and County Advocacy, please do not hesitate to reach out to me and our team at any time. If you have an issue that is pressing to your property, your brand, your employees or your ownership, please also make sure to use us as a sounding board. We’re here to resource our industry’s collective engagement, and Diane and I can swiftly connect you with the right member of our team to help you think through your advocacy needs.
Mahalo again for two years of aloha, support and leadership and for your continued membership with the Hawaiʻi Hotel Alliance.
News and Actions Around the Islands:
1. STVR Legislation
Councilmembers Ashley Kierkiewicz and Heather Kimball hosted a second community Zoom meeting on their proposed updates to the TAR (Transient Accommodations Rentals) bill on Friday, January 20, 2023 from 5:00 – 6:30 pm. They have a new website with the links to the community meetings from November and January, a list of FAQ and the latest draft of the bill: https://www.hawaiicountytar.com/
HHA and KCRA have shared the necessity to include the City and County of Honolulu’s platform accountability and transparency language in the revised bill, but it has not been included. Everyone please continue with your direct advocacy on this issue, so that they hear it from different groups (Hilton corporate, HHA, KCRA, etc.)
Councilmember Kimball said that the changes to the current law are council initiated, so they will initially be heard by the Planning Committee of the County Council, then move forward to the Windward and Leeward Planning Commissions, then back to the Planning Committee, then on to the full Council. Because of the Planning Commissions timing requirements to take up Council initiated bills (90 days) we may not see this issue move forward until early summer, with potential implementation of the new law in early 2024.
2. Proposed Shooting Range at Puuanahulu
The Waikoloa Hui focused on the proposed shooting range at Pu’uanahulu cancelled the meeting on 1/26/23. New information will be shared as it becomes available, as the hui is ready to engage if necessary.
1. Bill 154 - Cultural Overlay Bill
This bill provides more oversight in culturally sensitive designated areas on a cultural overlay map on future development.
The bills language mandates an island map showing high to low or no culturally sensitive areas island wide. If passed, Bill 154 will require approvals for changes in zoning, community plan amendments, district boundary amendments, grading or grubbing permits, special use permits, subdivision approvals, building permits that involve ground altering activities, permits for explosives material.
Bill 154 will also give the county archaeologist a lot more power in her recommendations.
We are organizing a working group to discuss the cultural overlay bill. Their findings are to be introduced by CM U’u-Hodgins.
2. Bill 21 – Lighting Bill
This bill aims to limit the blue light content in outdoor fixtures to 2% or less.
HHA is spearheading the working group and will start meeting by mid-February with a goal to rescind or recall the bill for multiple reasons i.e. the inability to get the “legal” lights under this bill – Former CM King, who introduced the bill, stated it’ll be hard to get the lights needed in the Washington Post.
3. SMA/Shoreline Rules
The working group has been meeting to discuss our proposed redline revisions that alight with Sea Engineering’s studies.
The hearing with MPC was postponed to 2/28 – Lahela is expecting a big push from our opposition to pass the rules as is, to include the outcome of the working group. HHA is trying to work on additional “no needs” to be included in the rules – Lahela requested to meet with Director Aoki, she declined but stated that we are more than welcome to send an email with our proposed amendments.
Meeting with Mayor Bissen on 2/7/23 included Lahela, Jerry, Duane and Cal.
Looking at correcting other legislative issue that have been passed in the last 2-4 years that have negatively impacted our visitor industry.
Working with Chair Lee’s office on organizing “Power Hour” – a way to educate our local legislators on the good that our hotels are doing, i.e. Being more sustainable, supporting local vendors, community give back programs, etc.
This will be held at our hotel properties with two (2) legislators at a time (Sunshine law)