Hawaii Tourism Authority: Proposed legislation impacting Hawaii’s tourism future

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George D. Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), issued the following commentary about House Bill 1471 and Senate Bill 704, as they relate to transient accommodations, and Senate Bill 658, relating to the establishment of a Hawaii Airport Corporation.

“With the 29th Legislature entering its final weeks, three bills significant to the future of Hawaii tourism and our communities statewide are being reviewed by lawmakers, House Bill 1471, Senate Bill 704 and Senate Bill 658.

“HB1471 and SB704 seek to establish a process for collecting taxes from operators of transient accommodations, while SB658 would create a Hawaii Airport Corporation within the State Department of Transportation to develop, manage and operate all State airport facilities.

“In considering the proposed legislation, the quality of the experience and safety for users, both residents and visitors, need to be top priorities during the evaluation process. Maintaining the excellence of Hawaii’s brand as a premier global destination is of paramount importance, as our State strives to improve its diversity of accommodations, quality of airports and way of life.

“We know from a recent study commissioned by HTA that 15 percent of visitors would not travel to Hawaii if alternative accommodations were not offered, and that these visitors contributed $1.87 billion in spending to the State’s economy last year.

“Ultimately, we need to continually strive toward ensuring that all facets of our tourism industry are making our communities stronger. Alternative accommodations have become essential to Hawaii tourism. As lawmakers determine an appropriate method to collect taxes from operators, there should also be measures in place ensuring guests are being provided with necessary safety information and quality accommodations befitting of Hawaii’s brand, and that users are not disruptive to neighborhoods.

“The first place any resident or visitor experiences when flying to and within the Hawaiian Islands are our airports. We all want the culture, beauty and pride we feel about Hawaii reflected in our airports. It’s imperative we move forward collectively with a strategy for improving our airport infrastructure as expeditiously and efficiently as possible.

“Having a world-class airport system is important to our residents’ quality of life, vital to the future of our State’s tourism industry, necessary to accommodate new and larger aircraft, and crucial to Hawaii’s brand as a global destination. With a strategic, cooperative focus, the needs of travelers, airlines and businesses can be accomplished in a timely, responsible manner.

“These proposed bills on transient accommodations and our airports can be instruments of change in supporting the future of Hawaii’s tourism industry. We appreciate the analysis and collaboration by lawmakers in determining the proper action for this legislation, but request that the core values of safety and quality of the experience be factored into their assessment and decision-making.”