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New emerging market opportunities may be swept away for years to come

Marketing Hawaii tourism done in secret executive sessions

Linda Hohnholz, eTN  Dec 30, 2010

The Hawai'i Tourism Authority (HTA) is in the process of developing Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for its marketing contracts for 2012 and beyond. If HTA develops these contracts as they have in the past, the terms for the scope of services - and the budget allocations by Major Market Area (MMA) - will be included in the RFP and set for the term of the contract. That is the reason that HTA and its contractors are unable to respond to changing conditions or to pursue new markets. The rationale for this approach is that it provides the contractors with assurance of funding, and it allows for long-term strategies to be developed. The downside of this approach is that it limits flexibility.

A hybrid approach to contracting, giving contractors a guaranteed base and a set scope of services, while holding back money (at least several million dollars annually), would allow for the reallocation of these funds based on changing conditions. This approach would allow existing contractors or newcomers to bid on opportunities identified by HTA. According to the Hawaii Tourism Association (HiTA), a private organization funded by eTurboNews, the fear and concern that HTA has with this idea is that unencumbered money would be "swept" from the budget.

HiTA has also tried for several years to point out additional potential markets for Hawaii. These markets include EU countries, Russia, India, Singapore, Gulf countries, Brazil, and South Africa, for example. A recent global survey by eTurboNews found that travel professionals in more than 80 countries are looking at Hawaii as a potential destination. HiTA recently attended a trade show in Moscow, Russia, and received a good response. If none of these markets (like none of them are now) are identified in the scope of HTA services, it would be very unlikely that anything could be done with these markets for a long time.

Since most decisions are being made in executive session (behind closed doors), HiTA will not know for sure if the previous approach to contracting is being applied. But if it is, the result would be a market approach that would pretty much be "set in stone" for the contract term, which will likely be for five years. HiTA has always been against the new law, which allows HTA to conduct executive sessions, which are hidden from the public. HiTA president Juergen Thomas Steinmetz strongly believes in keeping an open-door policy when developing additional tourism markets for Hawaii.

HiTA has been pushing for a seat on the HTA board - without success. HiTA is putting great hope in the new Abercrombie administration for a more open discussion of Hawaii’s number one industry. Only time will tell what the outcome of these efforts will be for a New Day in Hawaii.


Marketing Hawaii tourism done in secret executive sessions
Source: Hawaii Tourism Association

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