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New Law Starts in July: Impact on Hawaii Travel Reservations Revealed

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A new law in California will have a ripple effect on all accommodations in Hawaii in just over a month. (Tip for Renee on our site to mention it). California Assembly Bill No. 537 is notable, especially for visitors from California and elsewhere traveling to Hawaii. This bill, which was passed in October 2023 and will come into effect from July 1, 2024, aims to ensure transparency in advertising rates for short-term accommodation:

“A place of short-term stay, 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 charges or fees. costs necessary to stay in the short-term accommodation, with the exception of taxes and levies imposed by the government on the stay.”

California Bill 537.

Visitors from California make up the largest segment of Hawaii tourists. This bill will impact not only them, but everyone. It won’t be easy to create different rules for different segments of visitors who book online. So we expect this to have a much broader impact on hotel and vacation rental websites in Hawaii. Below is a brief overview of some of the implications of the bill.

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

“We’ve gotten caught in the maze of booking hotels and vacation rentals in Hawaii more times than we can count. A seemingly big deal can quickly go south when unexpected fees such as cleaning, management and resort fees are added, turning a good price into a bad one. It is worth noting that the law does not also require taxes (18% in Hawaii) to be shown before final booking. In any case, this is a great improvement for visitors to Hawaii and residents of Hawaii who are traveling.”

Beat of Hawaii

Impact on Lodging in Hawaii of California Assembly Bill No. 537.

1. Comprehensive Rate Inclusion Requirement: The bill requires all advertised room rates for short-term accommodations, including hotels, motels, and vacation rentals, to include all fees and surcharges, excluding government-imposed taxes and fees.

This affects everyone in California, whether they make reservations in Hawaii or elsewhere. It will ensure that California consumers see the full cost of their Hawaii vacation accommodations in advance. It is intended to prevent misleading advertising that conceals additional costs until further along in the booking process.

The requirement for transparency arises when visitors from California (and likely elsewhere) provide dates when searching for accommodations.

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 enforcement actions from a variety of sources, including city attorneys, district attorneys, county counsel, and the California Attorney General.

Hotels in Hawaii and vacation rental companies in Hawaii should take this into account.

It is now critical that you are aware of these regulations for hoteliers and short-term rental owners in Hawaii. In six weeks, California travelers who are 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 implementing appropriate practices to meet these regulatory expectations and increase booking competitiveness.

This coming change aligns with broader consumer protection trends aimed at eliminating junk fees and promoting fairer advertising in the travel industry.

Do you value legislation to increase transparency in accommodations in Hawaii? What is your experience with determining excessive fees?

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