Hawai‘i Tourism Industry Sets Records in 2017

The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority reported that the full-year visitor statistics for 2017 and the economic impact statewide will be released at the end of this month.

Yearly records will be set in three key categories:

  • Generated state tax revenue supports government programs all communities need.
  • Visitor spending grows the state’s economy.
  • Visitor arrivals spread tourism’s impact to all islands.

Pixabay image

In his president’s message, Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority President and CEO George D. Szigeti said, most importantly, tourism’s success is supporting approximately 200,000 jobs statewide for residents who depend on Hawai‘i’s No. 1 industry for their livelihoods.

“The industry’s success is a collaborative team effort supported by tourism’s stakeholders, from elected officials and leaders in the private sector to the professionals on the front line interacting with visitors daily,” Szigeti said. “All stakeholders are committed to seeing tourism prosper for the good of residents, families, businesses and communities statewide.”

“In November, air seat capacity increased by 5% compared to a year ago, the highest monthly rate of growth in 2017,” said Szigeti. “We expect air seat capacity in December to show an increase of about 6% when the month’s visitor statistics are released. Expected air seat capacity in December 2017 will show an increase of about 6% when the month’s visitor statistics are released. This upward trend is continuing into 2018 in response to travel demand. In the first quarter, based on scheduled flights serving Hawai‘i, air seat capacity is projected to grow by 10.9%.”

“Travel demand for Hawai‘i drives air seat capacity, which produces more bookings for hotels, activities and attractions, and increases spending at restaurants, retail outlets and stores,” Szigeti stated.All of this combines to strengthen Hawai‘i’s economy and ultimately support jobs for residents.” 

“Air seat capacity is, arguably, the strongest statistical indicator of potential success for Hawai‘i tourism,” said Szigeti. “That being the case, Hawai‘i is well-positioned entering 2018. Tourism is a fragile industry and continued growth can be interrupted at any time by an economic downturn, international crisis or natural disaster. Moreover, destinations worldwide are relentless in trying to draw travelers away from Hawai‘i. As travel demand stays strong for Hawa‘i so does air seat capacity and our state’s economy.”

Affordable Senior Citizen Apartment Applications Available

Applications are now being accepted for the new affordable apartments at Kamakana that are located off of Ane Keohokalole Highway in Kailua-Kona.

Kamakana courtesy photo

Last month, the County of Hawai‘i, Office of Housing and Community Development, began accepting on-line applications for the Project Based Voucher Program – Lei Kupuna.

The rental housing project is located in Kailua-Kona and has one- and two-bedroom units. To be eligible for assistance, applicants must be 62 years of age or older and total household income for all household members must not exceed 30% of the published average median income:

  • 1 person – $15,600
  • 2 persons – $18,760
  • 3 persons – $23,480
  • 4 persons – $28,290
  • 5 persons – $33,100
  • 6 persons – $37,910

The OHCD is working with the property manager in filling the remaining project based 2-bedroom 1-bath units.

All applicants must be a U.S. citizens, nationals or have eligible immigration status. In addition, all applicants must disclose the complete and accurate social security number (SSN) assigned to each household member.

Applications will be processed in the order in which they are received online.

For information about the project, visit the Kamakana website.

67 Hawai‘i Borrowers Affected in $45M Mortgage Company Settlement

Department of Justice file image.

Hawai‘i Attorney General Doug Chin, 48 other state attorneys general, the District of Columbia and over 45 state mortgage regulators have reached a $45 million settlement with New Jersey-based mortgage lender and servicer PHH Mortgage Corporation.

The settlement resolves allegations that PHH, the nation’s ninth largest non-bank residential mortgage servicer, improperly serviced mortgage loans from Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009, through Thursday, Dec. 31, 2012. The agreement requires PHH to adhere to comprehensive mortgage servicing standards, conduct audits, and provide audit results to a committee of states. The settlement does not release PHH from liability for conduct that occurred beginning in 2013.

“This settlement holds PHH accountable for the harms that 67 Hawai‘i borrowers suffered from improper loan servicing,” Attorney General Chin said. “The agreement places new servicing standards upon PHH and provides financial relief to aggrieved homeowners.”

Borrowers who were subjected to PHH foreclosures during the eligible period will qualify for a minimum $840 payment, and borrowers who faced foreclosures that PHH initiated during the eligible period, but did not lose their home, will receive a minimum $285 payment. Approximately 67 Hawai‘i borrowers are eligible. A settlement administrator will contact eligible payment recipients at a later date.

The settlement:

  • Provides $31 million in cash payments for up to 52,000 borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure (Hawai‘i had 19 borrowers) from Thursday, Jan, 1, 2009 to Thursday, Dec. 31, 2012, or were in the foreclosure process (Hawai‘i had 48 borrowers) during that period
  • Mandates that PHH submit an administrative penalty of $8.8 million to state regulators
  • Establishes a set of servicing standards the company must follow going forward

“This settlement demonstrates a core responsibility of state regulators to protect consumers from bad actors and bad business practices,” said Financial Institutions Commissioner Iris Ikeda. “With this settlement, we are making it clear that we will not tolerate mortgage servicers that harm consumers in anyway. As part of this settlement, States are requiring corrective actions so that PHH’s future mortgage servicing activity ensures timely and accurate processing of loan payments.”

Over $1M Released to Fight Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death

Kapapala Forest Reserve PC: UH Hilo, Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization Lab

Gov. David Ige announced on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2017, that he has released $1.264 million to fight Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (ROD), a fungal disease attacking and killing the most abundant native tree in Hawaiʻi.

“The ‘ōhiʻa tree is the foundation of Hawaiʻi’s native forest, and it is critical to the health of our watersheds and ecosystems,” said Gov. Ige. “Scientists are working hard to stop its spread, but many trees have already died on Hawaiʻi Island. This funding is focused on a Hawaiʻi Island-based response.”

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DNLR) is using the funds for survey, research, and outreach activities and will be hiring staff through the University of Hawaiʻi.

Specifically, funds will be used to:

  • Contract with the Carnegie Airborne Observatory to conduct additional aerial surveys on both Hawaiʻi and Maui islands using cutting-edge spectroscopy and LiDAR technologies. Surveys will be flown this month and complement earlier surveys from 2016 and 2017.
  • Hire a full-time laboratory technician with an advanced degree in plant pathology to increase capacity for diagnostics and ROD research and continue preliminary genetic resistance work.
  • Hire a full-time data management specialist to manage project data that is being stored in a DLNR hosted geo-spatial database accessible to all project partners. This database includes data from aerial surveys (both DLNR helicopter surveys and Carnegie data), ground surveys and laboratory results.
    Increase public outreach on Hawaiʻi island including producing and airing radio and television public service announcements and sponsoring community events.
  • Contract forest pathology expert with experience in Ceratocystis diseases to conduct research and advise DLNR about their management.
  • Support existing project staff of survey technicians (four), research post-docs (two) and to continue ongoing ROD research that otherwise would run out of funding before the end of FY18.
  • Contract helicopter service for quarterly surveys and transporting crews to sites for survey and management.
  • Purchase supplies and equipment such as chainsaws for on-the-ground team.