From Mauna Kea’s eruption to the continued back and forth over HTA’s much beleaguered Marketing and Destination Management contract award, the last month has been a whirlwind for the tourism industry throughout our Islands. Some of HHA’s members logged a surge in last minute Holiday bookings, while others reported cancellations citing fears over a looming recession and safety concerns over Tutu Pele’s path. Whatever your team is dealing with this holiday season, we’re continuing the good fight to keep your interests top of mind with the policy makers and administrators who can help.
In this month’s newsletter, we’ve highlighted some changes in the guard at the State Legislature where both the House and Senate have installed new leadership over Tourism as well as spotlighted a spate of new Cabinet Directors brought on by Governor Green who will be working hand in hand with HHA and our membership in the coming years. As you know too well, Hawai’i is a market that values relationships, so we thought it prudent to make sure you had these on your radar. All four Counties are also welcoming change into their Chambers, with many new members and old friends gaveling in the New Year with what appears to be a common theme that focuses on creating more housing for our workforce and economic sovereignty for our communities.
January will be a busy month, with the State Legislature’s official opening on 1/18/23 and our Counties getting to work with new leadership teams in place. Top on our list include supporting Governor Green’s DBEDT Director in ensuring the contact for Destination Marketing and Management is done expeditiously and in a Pono way, educating our counties on the dangers of increasing RPT rates, and developing affirmative legislative at the State level to support the Counties efforts to eradicate illegal short rentals from our shores. With this in mind, the team at HHA will be working through the Holidays.
Mahalo for your continued partnership with the Hawai`i Hotel Alliance. Your trust and Aloha for our organization gives me and the whole team that we have assembled the support we need to continue the good work of advocating for Hawai`i’s Hotels.
Wishing you and yours the Happiest of Holidays and a Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!
NEWS AND ACTIONS AROUND THE ISLANDS:
Sen. Decoite and Rep. Quinlan tapped to Chair Tourism Committees:
Senator Lynn Decoite (D - Hana, East and Upcountry Maui, Moloka‘i, Lana ‘i, and Kaho‘olawe) has been appointed Majority Floor Leader for the Hawaii State Senate and Chair of the Senate’s Committee on Energy Economic Development and Tourism (EET). Former EET Chair Senator Glenn Wakai will remain on as EET’s Vice Chair.
In the State House of Representatives Tourism will now stand alone as its own committee after being lumped together with labor for years. Decoupling Labor and Tourism and allowing Tourism to stand alone will give the House Committee on Tourism the time requisite to deal with some of our industry’s most pressing issues. Representative Sean Quinlan (D - Waialua to Kahana) will Chair the House Committee on Tourism and has already signaled a focus on supporting regenerative tourism through the eradication of illegal short-term rentals.
Key Cabinet Appointments of interest to our industry:
In record time Governor Josh Green has assembled a competent Cabinet who are ready to serve our communities, businesses, and families. A few key cabinet members of interest to HHA and our membership include:
Anne Lopez - Attorney General for the Department of the Attorney General
Lopez joins with extensive legal experience across multiple state departments. Most recently as Vice President and General Counsel for the Hawai`i Health Systems Corporation she brings executive managerial experience to the department and crucial understanding of government affairs. She is prepared to take on the legal challenges facing the state and provide effective leadership to the Department of the Attorney General.
Major General Kenneth Hara, Adjutant General for the Department of Defense
Maj. Gen. Hara will continue to serve as the Adjutant General. His leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and experience with disaster management are important sources of continuity for the Green Administration and the state, especially with the volcanic eruption at Mauna Loa.
Ed Sniffen, Director of the Department of Transportation
Sniffen most recently served as the Deputy Director for Highways with the Department of Transportation and will drive the department to build on his work, paving lasting change for the State’s infrastructure demands.
Keith Regan, Comptroller for the Department of Accounting and General Services
Regan recently served as a Business Management Officer with the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. He previously worked as the Chief Administrative Officer for the Hawai`i Tourism Authority and was Managing Director for the County of Maui.
Chris Sadayasu, Director of the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism
Sadayasu has over seventeen years of experience as an expert in economic development in the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, and in the department’s various attached agencies including HTA, HCDA, and HHFDC. He most recently served as the Charities Program Administrator with the Department of the Attorney General.
Nadine Ando, Director of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
Ando has over 40 years of commercial litigation experience including complex work on regulatory and professional licensing. Her proven background with insurance investigations, financial institutions, and consumer protection will help lead the department. Catherine Awakuni Colón will holdover through mid- December.
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. The latest draft of the bill and FAQ can be found at https://www.hawaiicountytar.com.
The first public meeting was attended by more than 900 people, the vast majority of them hosted rental owners who were actively lobbying against the bill.
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 resolution of this issue until early summer, with potential implementation of the new law in the next fiscal year (July 1, 2023 – June 30, 2024).
The intent of this updated bill is to: 1) change the registration requirements so that all TARs must register and pay the required annual fees, including hosted rentals, which were specifically excluded from the original legislation; 2) address the creation of resort nodes in key areas to legitimize the zoning for TARs in areas where there has been historic use (such as Volcano) but the land regulations are not in alignment; 3) stiffen enforcement of unlawful TARs with large penalties and dedicated staff, funded by registration fees; 4) bring equity to taxation and permitting processes across accommodations types; 5) change property tax rates for people who host rentals in their homes.
2. Proposed Shooting Range at Puuanahulu
According to an article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald on 12/6/22, the gun advocacy group On Target is hoping to revitalize momentum on a proposed shooting range at Puuanahulu, directly across from Waikoloa Resort, by requesting that the Legislature fund an Environmental Assessment for that site. The Waikoloa coalition that defeated this issue in 2014 met on 12/19/22 and 1/5/23 to discuss next steps, and followed up with key legislators and newly appointed DLNR Director Dawn Chang to oppose the location. Our next meeting will be on 1/26/23.
3. New Police Chief
The Hawaii County Police Department selected Honolulu Major Benjamin Moszkowicz for the next Police Chief. Moszkowicz was sworn in by Mayor Roth on 1/11/23 and will begin his tenure with the department on 1/19/23.
4. Water Lines
Water lines ruptures at Hapuna State Park have forced intermittent closures since December. State Parks administrator Curt Cottrell has explained it may take up to 2 years to fix the water lines. In the interim, portable luas have been installed, but there is no potable water for the pavilions, showers or for drinking by the thousands of people who use that park daily. That has put additional pressure on the hotel / resort public access areas along the Kohala Coast. We’ve been advocating that the state spend the nearly $1B in TAT collected in 2022 to fix our antiquated infrastructure, as Hapuna is often rated as Hawaii Island’s premier beach destination.
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. This was a bill that was introduced within the last month or so and another sprint for us in trying to submit revisions to the bill. I am currently fighting this bill to allow for proposed amendments. The reading at the full council was on 12/16/22.
Bill 154 – Cultural Overlay – HHA fought it, council passed it, Mayor Victorino vetoed it on 12/30/22, it will be taken up in the 1/27/23 County Council meeting.
2. Bill 21 – Lighting Bill
This bill aims to limit the blue light content in outdoor fixtures to 2% or less. HHA fought against good arguments, unfortunately, we didn’t get the votes needed on this controversial bill. Councilmembers recognized HHA’s arguments and agreed to our proposal of a working group to provide more input and study on the impact this bill will have on the community. 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 including 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.
Looking at correcting other legislative issue that have been passed in the last 2-4 years that have negatively impacted our visitor industry.
Educate our local legislators on the good that our hotels are doing, ie. Being more sustainable, supporting local vendors, community give back programs, etc.
This will be through a “Power Hour” at our hotel properties with two (2) legislators at a time (Sunshine law).
Educate our community on the positives by doing more community outreach.
Working with our hotels that are having issues with the state and/or county.