Hospitality Consultant Says Hawaii Tourism Authority Contract Award with Hawaii Native Development Board Reflects Transition to Destination Management

The Hawaii tourism industry is at a crossroads. It is recovering faster than anyone expected, and the Hawaii Tourism Authority is changing who will sell the islands to North America.

It is by far the largest source of travelers in the state. In the first four months of the year, 2.8 million people visited Hawaii. Over 90% came from the US or Canada.

HTA awarded a $34 million marketing and destination management contract to the Hawaii Native Development Board in place of the Hawaiian Bureau of Visitors and Conferences. Previously, HVCB was the only entity ever to contract for the sale of Hawaii as a destination in the continental United States and Canada. The HVCB has until Tuesday to decide if it will contest the award.

“When it came time to renegotiate the US marketing contract, the RFP (request for proposals) was completely different. And it reflected what was in the strategic plan,” said hospitality consultant Frank Haas. “The strategic plan calls for the development of an integrated destination management system and marketing is certainly part of that. But he really saw the interaction between the community, Hawaiian culture, natural resources and marketing.”

Haas is part of the transition group Kilohana Collective, an organization organized by the CNHA. Haas previously worked for HTA and was a client of HVCB.

How did we get to this point with a possible second $34 million contract award issue?

In 2019, 10.4 million people visited the islands of Hawaii, a record-breaking year and the first time more than 10 million people visited the state. Hawaii could again exceed the number of visitors in 2020 if not for the pandemic. Opposition from residents who complained about overtourism prompted the Hawaii Tourism Authority to develop a strategic plan to try and stop it. It is in the process of implementing DMAPs or Destination Management Action Plans.

“The HTA measures the mood of the residents and we have all seen the jokes about too many people on the beaches, too much traffic and some other things. So that was really a problem that HTA was working on and how they are trying to solve it. is in the process of planning them,” said Haas.

Haas said he agreed to take part in order to help the CNHA succeed. He wrote a strategic assessment for the group and hopes to help people understand the purchasing process.

“If there are changes, they will cause discomfort,” he said. “I care deeply about Hawaii and I care a lot that they do well in tourism. So yes, if someone has a US destination management and marketing contract and I can help when they have that contract, I would definitely like to be at the table.”

This interview aired on The Conversation on June 17, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11:00 am on HPR-1.

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