Confused Hawaii Tourism Leaders face record visitors

by: Juergen T Steinmetz | copyright: eTurboNews – Travel Industry News – World Travel News

The support for the development of Hawaii’s vital travel and tourism industry seems to be disappearing among legislators. The support is also getting low by many of those in the population not understanding the importance of tourism, and among those that want to please such voices.

Some say, the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the State agency in charge of running this industry are different than any tourism board in the world. John de Fries heading HTA made clear he doesn’t really want tourists to come to Hawaii, only some visitprs.

Hawaii is an exotic far away destination for Americans, but on domestic soil. Aloha and Hula are the trigger words.

No matter if expensive, cheap Americans, Canadians, Japanese and Koreans are fascinated by Hawaii – and they will continue to travel to be seen with an orchid lei around their neck – in record numbers.

With hardly any tourism promotions in place, with international visitor rates still down, Hawaii’s visitors count reached about 90% of a record year 2019. Hotels with less occupancy make more money on guests, but occupancy trends are on the rise anyway.

9.25 million visitors spent more than $19 billion in the US State of Hawaii in 2022.

A new chief of the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism Chris Sadayasu criticized Mike McCartney, who was in charge of the Department before in getting too much involved in the appointment process of a marketing company to be awarded the sizable contract in marketing Hawaii as a tourism destination.

The U.S. marketing tourism contract is heading for a third solicitation. This process has irritated many in the visitors industry.

Three bills are seeking to repeal the embattled Hawaii Tourism Authority this legislative session, which may prove one of the more contentious for the agency since state lawmakers gave it life in 1998.

Many Hawaii residents are deeply critical of tourism, which has been blamed for everything from Hawaii’s housing and traffic ills to over-tourism and degradation of natural resources and neighborhoods.

House Bill 1375 introduced by Rep. Sean Quinlan and other House members, would repeal HTA’s board and change the organization as a destination management agency overseen by a paid, governor-appointed three-member commission administratively placed within DBEDT.

The bill was amended to fund the new agency through a $100 million allocation from transient accommodations tax revenue, of which $50 million would be earmarked for a matching fund program to support Destination Management Action Plan projects throughout the counties.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority is facing threats from two other bills that would refocus HTA’s statutory mission more toward stewardship of home rather than tourism promotion. Tourism promotion was the main requirement for 25 years.

Another bill by Senator Donovan Dela Cruz would dissolve the Hawaii Tourism Authority and its board. Instead is proposes to establish an office of Tourism Destination Management under the leadership of DBEDT, the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Tourism leadership in Hawaii is unstable, confusing, and some say it doesn’t make any difference. There will always be tourism in Hawaii – no matter what.

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