New Law Starts July: Impact on Hawaii Travel Reservations Revealed

A new California law will have a ripple effect on all Hawaii accommodations starting in just over one month. (Hat tip to Renee on our site for mentioning it). California Assembly Bill No. 537 is noteworthy, especially for Hawaii-bound visitors from California (and elsewhere). This bill, which was passed in October 2023 and takes effect from July 1, 2024, targets transparency in advertising rates for short-term lodging:

“A place of short-term lodging, an internet website, application, or other similar centralized platform, or any other person shall not advertise, display, or offer a room rate, as defined in Section 17561, that does not include all fees or charges required to stay at the short-term lodging except taxes and fees imposed by a government on the stay.”

California Assembly Bill 537.

Visitors from California make up the largest segment of Hawaii tourists. This bill will not just impact them but also everyone. The reason is that while it is intended for California residents, it won’t be easy to create different rules for different segments of visitors who are reserving online. For that reason, we expect this to have a much wider-ranging impact on Hawaii hotel and vacation rental websites. Following is a brief overview of some of the bill’s implications.

Transparency in pricing is a good thing. It helps all visitors better budget their trips without unexpected costs, making the travel planning process smoother and more reliable.

“We’ve found ourselves tangled in the maze of booking Hawaii hotels and vacation rentals more times than we can count. A seemingly great deal can quickly sour when unexpected fees like cleaning, management, and resort charges are tacked on, turning a good price into a bad one. It’s worth noting that the law does not also require that taxes (18% in Hawaii) be shown in advance of the final booking. In any event, this is a big improvement for the benefit of Hawaii visitors and Hawaii residents when traveling.”

Beat of Hawaii

Impact on Hawaii accommodations from California Assembly Bill No. 537.

1. Requirement for comprehensive rate inclusion: The bill will mandate that all advertised room rates for short-term lodgings, including hotels, motels, and vacation rentals, include all fees and charges, excluding government-imposed taxes and fees.

This impacts anyone in California, whether they are making reservations in Hawaii or elsewhere. It will ensure California consumers see the full cost of their Hawaii vacation accommodations upfront. It intends to prevent misleading advertising that obfuscates additional fees until further down in the booking process​​.

The requirement for transparency occurs when visitors from California (and likely elsewhere) specify dates in an accommodation search.

2. Associated enforcement and significant penalties: Since this applies to anyone selling to Californians, violations of the law can result in civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation. We expect to see enforcement actions brought by various sources, including city attorneys, district attorneys, county counsels, and the California Attorney General​.

Hawaii hotels and Hawaii vacation rental companies need to take note.

Being aware of these regulations is now crucial for Hawaii’s hotel and short-term rental owners. In six weeks, California travelers already familiar with transparent pricing at home can expect the same clarity when booking accommodations in Hawaii. Business owners and managers in Hawaii will need to consider adopting appropriate practices to meet these legal expectations and enhance booking competitiveness.

This upcoming change aligns with broader consumer protection trends aimed at eliminating “junk fees” and promoting more honest advertising in the travel industry.

Do you value legislation to increase transparency in Hawaii accommodations? What has your experience been with finding excessive fees tacked on?

Bill-Text_-CA-AB537-_-2023-2024-_-Regular-Session-_-Chaptered-_-LegiScan

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43 thoughts on “New Law Starts July: Impact on Hawaii Travel Reservations Revealed”

  1. I love Hawaii and I believe that Hawaii should make laws to keep their land as sacred as possible. To keep rules and requirements for renting as they should be.
    We travel to the islands every couple of years and want to keep coming as much as possible. We own a timeshare and do not want to lose the privilege of losing it because of the other people that do not abide by the rules.
    Hawaii has a lot of sacred grounds a culture and I follow their beliefs. I would not desecrate any of them. ♥️

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  2. I work at a hotel in waikiki. I brought up the issue of Resort fees being essentially Hidden Fees to the director of the front office. Their response was “everyone does it”. This was around 10 years ago. Here we are today (finally) with some clarity for the vacationers who help our island survive.

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  3. I ve noticed lots of extra charges being tacked on to my reservations all over, since COVID. Why are we paying cleaning costs. I also have a timeshare which I’m wandering how that will be effected

  4. While it could be harder for higher-fee accomodations to compete in some case, this would be an incredibly beneficial change. Wish it could apply across the entire country, and in a broad variety of areas of business.

  5. We are California residents and own a Maui condo. I’ve been researching this new California bill and cannot find anywhere that the law applies to California residents vacationing in Hawaii. We use VRBO and Airbnb which breaks down all fees prior to the final booking process. Full transparency.

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