The Hawaiian government this week rescinded the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s U.S. tourism contract with the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, a community non-profit, providing a potential setback for the authority’s sustainable tourism efforts. The reason for the government’s rescission was that the contract needed to be separated into two, one for marketing and the other for visitor management and community relations.
The move is the latest roadblock to the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s attempts toward bringing a more sustainable approach to Hawaii, where communities have been frustrated by and more vocal about tourism’s negative impacts on their quality of life and ecosystem. The situation was an industry example of the 2022 Skift megatrend that communities are asserting themselves in travel.
Former Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT) Director Mike McCartney made the decision minutes before his term ended at noon on Monday. The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) sits under the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism.
In a letter, McCartney said there needs to be one contract for marketing and another for destination brand management, communication, education, and community-based economic development. “A single contract would not only put us at a competitive disadvantage in the market but also in dealing with the community,” the former director wrote.
In June, the Hawaii Tourism Authority awarded Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) the $34 million dollar contract to market the islands to the U.S. until December 2024. It was a historic shift because HTA didn’t go with its historic partner, Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB), which has marketed Hawaii for over a century with strong support from the traditional tourism industry.
The contract award also represented a significant step toward HTA implementing a “locals-first” approach. The authority wants to attract a more high-spending but mindful visitor, one that will embrace Hawaii’s cultural heritage and be respectful of sacred sites and the natural environment.
Since the June contract award, HTA has repeatedly extended its current contract with the HVCB due to protests by the bureau. Its most recent extension was up to March 31, 2023.
With the June contracted canceled, HVCB could very well end up oversee marketing to the U.S. for the next few years. In a statement, CNHA CEO Kūhiō Lewis called McCartney’s recession “unlawful” and said his organization will protest it.
HTA President and CEO John De Fries said the organization is willing to work on a settlement with all the parties involved or start a new procurement process, according to Hawaii News Now.
Either way, the Hawaii Tourism Authority will have to get to work, starting with an upcoming emergency meeting. “My staff and I look forward to discussing this rescission and cancellation at our board meeting on Wednesday and we will work with our board, new DBEDT Director Chris Sadayasu, the State Procurement Office, and Governor Josh Green to explore viable options and align our direction going forward,” said De Fries.