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​Former Starwood executive says HTA has lost its way amid $34M marketing contract developments

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Has the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority lost its way? Hospitality consultant Keith Vieira believes it has. He's a former Starwood executive, now with KV and Associates Hospitality Consultants.

The HTA just awarded a $34 million marketing contract to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement instead of the Hawaiʻi Visitors and Convention Bureau. HVCB had secured the contract, but after a protest by the council, the bid was thrown out and rebid. In the second round, the contract was then awarded to the council.

Prior to the council being awarded the contract, the HVCB had been the only entity ever contracted to do marketing for HTA.

Vieira says the council is not the logical group to be marketing for the visitor industry. He believes the current contract with the HVCB should be extended for one year while the HTA revamps the bidding process to be more transparent.

"I think this has to be stepped back to be looked at, both from what's in the RFP, and more importantly, the judges. You cannot just have state people or people that don't have knowledge," Vieira said. "It's just wrong. They have to redo it, they have to make it clear what they're going to make as a criteria. It has to be logical to what is needed by the community and the industry. And then they have to get judges that have knowledge and experience of what they're seeing and what's being presented to them."

HVCB officials asked for a debrief and got that Tuesday. Those directly involved are gagged from commenting until the challenge process is complete, but industry watchers say the process is suspect and raises questions about what should happen going forward.

The HVCB has until next Tuesday to decide if it will challenge the award of the North America marketing contract to the CNHA.

This interview aired on The Conversation on June 15, 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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