The Hawaii Tourism Authority may not be around for long. Last week, the state legislature’s House committee approved a Senate bill that would repeal the Hawaii Tourism Authority and create a government office dedicated solely to destination management, leaving the island without a tourism marketing agency. The bill now has to face two hearings before leaving the House, bringing it closer to passage.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority has had a strained relationship with the legislature. Lawmakers have questioned its necessity, slashed its budget, removed its state procurement exemption and took away its transient accommodation tax fund source.
Hawaiian residents have been frustrated with overtourism. Feeling their quality of life and environment has suffered, they have asserted themselves and are no longer spectators in how tourism is managed. “What I’m cognizant of now is that communities are intently watching the visitor industry,” Hawaii Tourism Authority CEO De Fries told Skift.
The agency’s recent failure to award a two-year destination marketing and management contract was the last straw for the legislature. It repeatedly redid the procurement process and endured legal troubles and delays. It mostly recently had to split the contract between marketing and destination marketing and put both out to bid after a senior government official canceled minutes before his departure.
For the last few years, the Hawaii Tourism Authority has tried to pursue a sustainable approach. This has involved listening to residents, taking on more destination management responsibilities and pivoting away from mass tourism marketing.