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Former head of Hawaiʻi marketing bureau talks loss of multi-million dollar HTA contract

Waikiki beach tourism hotel
Casey Harlow
Hawaii Public Radio

A former head of the Hawaiʻi Visitors and Convention Bureau said the state should leverage the tourism industry for the betterment of our community.

Tony Vericella led the bureau from 1997 to 2003. He said tourism could be used as a catalyst by the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority to bring various industries to our islands and advancements to the University of Hawaiʻi.

Vericella said that would benefit both residents and visitors alike.

He said it could be part of a renewed effort to attract a higher quality of visitors, an effort that was originally started more than two decades ago.

"That push to higher quality of visitors and less quantity was started in the late 90s, early 2000s. But then people can have lost their way. And absolutely, the focus should be back there again," Vericella told The Conversation. "There needs to be redirecting HTA back to its origin and away from the path that it's currently on — away from this mentality of the end justifies the means. They're doing things so they can exist, and that they get funding. They should start doing things for the right reasons."

Vericella also questioned the HTA’s decision to award a recent marketing contract to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement over the HVCB.

He says that despite the positive work the council does, he was not aware of any marketing expertise it has in any field.

This interview aired on The Conversation on June 13, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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