Soaring Hotel Rates in Hawaii Have No Place To Land Because of This

Hard Pivot | New Hawaii Tourism Head | Pro Hotel, Anti-Vacation Rental

The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) has elected pro-hotel, former Mayor of Honolulu, and long-time politician, Mufi Hannemann, to lead the HTA. The decision occurred yesterday, wherein the board replaced Hawaiian Airlines’ Blaine Miyasato. We’ll give you our sense of both changes today.

Blaine has long served Hawaiian Airlines and will become part of the Alaska Airlines merger team. His current title at Hawaiian is managing director of state and local government affairs. Blaine has been with the airline for 40 years and has served across multiple departments and positions. He will stay on at HTA, at least for now, as one of the HTA regular board members.

The change of leadership at HTA from a top airline executive to the current president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association (HLTA) is a significant gain for hotels and concerning to those in the vacation rental sector. How Hannemann balances his perceived conflict of interest will be interesting to watch in the ongoing HTA saga detailed below.

One thing’s for certain. Hawaii vacation rentals are at risk. And this news comes just days after we heard the governor say that he would entertain at least a short-term moratorium on Maui vacation rentals. See Possible Moratorium Looms Over Maui Vacation Rentals.

Fascinating Insights We Received On What's Coming Next For Hawaii Travel

Hawaii’s tourism future is less shaky but still unknown.

The all-important Hawaii Tourism Authority has only an interim president, prior chief administrative head Daniel Naho‘opi‘i. He commented that Mufi has a “strong vision and passion for how HTA and tourism can make Hawaii a better place to live and work.”

The head of Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) called for a pause following prior HTA president John De Fries’ decision to leave his position effective 9/15/23 for unknown reasons. Jimmy Tokioka, DBEDT head, said of the latest mess that the state needs to “figure out what it’s going to take for the Legislature to trust the authority moving forward.”

A Hawaii bill before the legislature called for entirely repealing the HTA and moving its authority to within the DBEDT. That bill was deferred, although other state officials continue to call for upending HTA to a greater or lesser degree.

What is Hannemann’s Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association?

The pro-hotel group previously said previously it is “nearly 700 members strong, representing more than 50,000 hotel rooms and nearly 40,000 lodging workers.” It has long sought to regulate Hawaii vacation rentals further.

Others have suggested that Mufi’s groups efforts against vacation rentals can be termed as a “blatant attempt by hotel groups such as The Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association to squelch competition” from Hawaii vacation rentals.

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Their positions include a no-green fee but instead promote “Impact Fees.”

According to Mufi’s HLTA organization, these are for “high-traffic tourist attractions around the
state… We would support the assessment of fees from travelers impacting a specific resource so long as these monies are kept separate from any general fund and are used specifically to maintain and improve the site at which they were collected.”

Hawaii vacation rentals
Hawaii vacation rentals

Regarding vacation rentals, it appears to be a rather hard no.

In HLTA’s 2023 mission statement, Mufi’s organization said, “Reducing the number of STRs (short-term or vacation rentals) owned and operated by extractive and exploitative individuals would immediately improve our housing inventory, and HLTA will look to support legislation to this effect.”

Hannemann serves as the president and CEO of HLTA.

In a vague and expected comment that accompanied the announcement of his appointment at HTA, Hannemann said, “HTA carries with it the duty to always do what’s best for the future of Hawaii and its people while guiding our state’s largest and most important industry to be continually successful in the extremely competitive global tourism economy. I’m honored to have the board’s confidence in serving as chair and look forward to working collaboratively with Governor Josh Green, our Legislature, and HTA’s leadership team to respond to the challenges faced by the industry so that everyone can share in the benefits tourism generates for Hawaii, while also taking care of our communities.”

New Hawaii Tourism: Conservation/Use Fees, Reservations, Limits, Education

The state of Hawaii Tourism now and in the future.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) had been facing potential elimination by the legislature. This summer, HTA introduced its latest initiative, the “Holomua” website, which aimed to educate visitors and others about the islands’ community-based Destination Management Action Plans (DMAPs). However, the practical value of these plans for visitors has remained elusive. DMAPs strive to balance between the benefits of tourism and its impact on natural resources and frequently visited areas.

Legislator Sean Quinlan proclaimed that HTA has been good at selling Hawaii but that a shift to better management of Hawaii resources is needed.

Hawaii lawmakers previously tried to eliminate HTA, with its role falling on Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism. That now seems less likely, although Quinlan’s plan, for example, will be for HTA or DBEDT to focus on destination management rather than on marketing Hawaii.

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52 thoughts on “Hard Pivot | New Hawaii Tourism Head | Pro Hotel, Anti-Vacation Rental”

  1. In the vacation zone Kailua kona BI, I see a lot less international visitors .Weakness in Canadian, Japanese currency have defiantly reduced the occupancy rates greatly. Rich people don’t want to retire here full time due to the heat and taxes, poor people don’t want to work two jobs. The middle class and foreigners are priced out by high cost and foreign exchange. I think the HTA should focus on getting more intermediate visitors, one to three months, these having less environmental impact.
    More buses, less rental cars would be help get more tourism with
    minimal impacts. If the law were changed to allow 2 or 3 month “short term” rentals, this could help a lot.

      1. Its easy to add and increase taxes and user fees.  But it’s hard to rewrite landlord tenant law, to facilitate intermediate stay visitors.
        Seems like the HTA is owned by the hotels and  airline industry anyway. Hawaii is an isolated state, decoupled from mainland by the Jones act, so the incumbent players continue to earn the winnings of limited competition. That kind of economic power is

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