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Hawaiian State Auditor Blasts Tourism Agency for Mismanagement

Dec 12, 2013 7:30 am

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In a year that’s gone reasonably well for Hawaii Tourism, this auditor’s report points to practices that demonstrate a marketing organization that, in a best-case scenario, is resting on its laurels.

— Jason Clampet

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Michael Goulding  / Orange County Register/MCT

A quiet walk under the backdrop of Diamond Head is part of the experience of visiting Duke Kahanamoku Beach in Hawaii. Michael Goulding / Orange County Register/MCT

The Hawaii agency in charge of promoting tourism on the islands doesn’t have a clear marketing plan and isn’t properly managing $59 million in contracts to make sure taxpayer money is being spent wisely, the state auditor said Wednesday.

Acting State Auditor Jan Yamane said in an audit released Wednesday that Hawaii Tourism Authority‘s marketing plan is confusing, spread over 15 documents and nearly 600 pages. That makes it tough for the authority to measure its performance against goals set by the state, Yamane said.

Hawaii Tourism Authority CEO Mike McCartney said the agency is working on new ways to update and evaluate its goals. The agency is using the audit to help focus on some key procedures that may need more internal control, he said.

“We are committed to continuous improvement as an authority,” McCartney said in a statement. “The recommendations included in the report will be used as a tool in our ongoing planning and integrated into our work plan as we strive to be more efficient, effective and productive.”

Yamane said the agency needs better monitoring to make sure the money it spends on contracts isn’t wasted.

Marketing contractors haven’t been held accountable for their performance, and state tourism officials don’t always follow up on goals, leading to unreported activity, she said.

Yamane said board members and administrators at the agency have generally misunderstood their requirements for documenting and following requirements.

“As a result, the authority’s officials mistakenly believe that their diffuse marketing plan documents satisfy these requirements,” the audit said.

McCartney said the agency is in the process of preparing a new strategic plan for 2015 through 2020.

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