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June 8 Letter to Membership

Aloha!

A group of RBOAA volunteers met for almost four hours on Saturday and debated various strategies.

As we noted on the last newsletter, we believe that the State has opened the door to all accommodations once the quarantine is lifted. However, the County Mayors have all kept Short Term Rentals closed.  We know that the county Mayors are rightly under pressure to keep neighbourhoods and communities safe and we also know that there is a level of opposition to the state’s dependence on tourism and, in particular, the impact on residential neighbourhoods.

On the same token, we are operating legal businesses, properly permitted where necessary and there isn’t a logical or legal justification for keeping us closed after the quarantines are lifted.

The strategy we landed on was to send a letter to each of the county mayors explaining our position. At this time, we are not asking for a letter writing campaign – while sometimes necessary, they can be very annoying to the recipients and therefore counterproductive.

We have carefully chosen our language to address the anticipated concerns of the mayors while highlighting the positive attributes of vacation rentals.

If you want to send letters to your Mayor, please feel free to do so. However, you may want to wait to see what kind of response we get from the first letters and adjust accordingly. If you do send a letter, we want to ensure we set a positive tone, that we have our facts correct and that we are prepared to work with them through this unusual time.

Below is a sample letter ( sent to Maui Mayor Victorino as well as Governor Ige ). Similar letters went to the other three mayors.

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RE: Request to Reopen Vacation Rentals when Quarantine is lifted

June 7, 2020

Aloha Mayor Victorino,

We would like to thank you for your leadership in this pandemic crisis and your success in keeping the infection rates so low.

We look forward to the day when Hawaii once again welcomes visitors to and between the islands. We understand and agree with the importance of a slow and measured reopening of the economy, balancing the need to protect our residents with the need to return tens of thousands of Hawaiians to work. We also know the tourist industry will take many months to recover.

We are not asking you to accelerate the lifting of the quarantine. However, we are asking that when the quarantines are lifted and when visitors return, they have their choice of staying in either a legal vacation rental or a hotel. We do not want to see hotels allowed to open if legal vacation rentals are required to remain shuttered.

RBOAA represents over 1100 owners of legal vacation rental units across Hawaii. Our businesses support and partner with a large number of workers in the local economy such as cleaners, maintenance people, local contacts, tradespeople and many small businesses, all of whom are unemployed or suffering.

Respectfully, we are asking for a clear statement from you stating that legal vacation rentals shall be permitted to reopen once the inter-island quarantine is lifted ( for Hawaiian travellers ) and once the out of state quarantine is lifted (for all other travellers).

Reopening with safety of our guests, our staff and our community is of paramount concern.

1. Our members and, more importantly, our local cleaners and local contacts are prepared to follow the evolving cleaning and disinfecting recommendations from the CDC and cleaning guidelines from other authorities and agencies, such as VRMA. The two largest advertising platforms, AirBnB and Expedia/Vrbo are also communicating cleaning expectations to owners.

2. All staff working in units or interacting with guests (housekeepers, quality control inspectors, maintenance technicians, or anyone else) will follow State government social distancing and protection protocols.

There are many reasons why we feel the re-opening of legal vacation rentals should be permitted.

1. The vast majority of vacation rentals, over 95%, are located in legally zoned areas, mostly in purpose built complexes in tourist areas, away from residential areas.

2. Collectively, vacation rental units generate 30% of the real property tax revenue collected in the County of Maui.

3. Travellers choose either hotels or vacation rentals based on their personal preferences and both hotels and vacation rentals are integral parts of the tourism economy.  As vacation rentals are self-contained units with kitchens and laundry and without daily cleaning, there is less interaction with other guests in common areas and less risk to staff.   Many units have keyless entry and contactless check-in, further reducing the risk of social contact.

4. We employ a large number of local contacts, cleaners, maintenance people who are currently unemployed.

5. Vacation rental owners are small business owners and without revenue will struggle to pay mortgages, property taxes, HOA fees, insurance as well as their own and their HOA staff.  Vacation rental owners buy local, from paint and linens to furniture and appliances.  HOA fees stay within the state.

6. If legal vacation rentals are not allowed to operate, we know that illegal vacation rentals will continue to operate regardless.  Legal vacation rental owners already struggle to compete against those operators who do not collect TAT and GET and pay lower property taxes.  It would be an added offense if they operate while we remain shuttered.  We are happy to work with you to shut down illegal operators.

The slump in tourism is predicted to last for several years and is perfect opportunity for politicians and business leaders to thoughtfully and carefully develop ways to diversify our economy and reduce our dependence on tourism.  Attempting to shutter a whole sector of the tourism industry, a sector which has been legally operating for many decades, will negatively affect thousands of small business owners, the Maui County tax base, cleaners, maintenance people, HOA’s, property managers and all the small businesses that depend on our visitors for their survival.   We know that some vacation rentals owners will simply not be able to survive on the lower occupancy and will sell out.  The market will support the best operators.

The vacation rental industry is an integral part of our economy and should be included in the state’s reopening.  These types of rentals provide quality, safe and clean experiences for our visitors while minimizing social contact.  We don’t pose a greater risk than the hotels, in fact, our accommodations are safer post COVID with the additional privacy, access and ability to self-contain within the condos.

We urge you to include our industry in your reopening.  We are hoping to work with you to reopen as smoothly and safely as possible.

We thank you for your consideration and we look forward to hearing from you.
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In other news – we have decided that we need to re-instate our $100 membership donation rate.  We had lowered it to $10 earlier this year in the simpler pre-COVID days, however, we are anticipating an expensive fight over the re-opening.  Those of you who donated during the $10 days, your membership is still valid for 2020.

Mahalo,

Neal

 

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