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Tourism consultant floats idea for interagency destination management

A car crosses a stone bridge on the Hana Highway in Hana, Hawaiʻi. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
FR132415 AP
A car crosses a stone bridge on the Hāna Highway in Hāna, Hawaiʻi. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

During the 2023 legislative session, lawmakers stopped short of replacing the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority with an office inside the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism — where it used to be decades ago.

Tourism consultant Frank Haas, economics Professor Emeritus James Mak and economist Paul Brewbaker are calling for a holistic governance model to help Hawaiʻi get tourism right. They suggest creating a position or agency with the authority to coordinate an interagency tourism plan.

"Most importantly, a shift to 'whole of government' means that managing tourism in Hawai‘i would no longer be the responsibility of a single agency (currently Hawai‘i Tourism Authority) but would be a distributed responsibility requiring the coordination of all the state, county, and other organizations involved in tourism," they wrote.

The HTA's primary function has been to coordinate the marketing of Hawaiʻi in major market areas, including North America and Japan. The agency pivoted toward destination management around 2020 amid overtourism concerns.

"The 2020 strategic plan for Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority was a radical shift from where it had been in the past. It said very definitively that we are going to embrace this idea of destination management. Destination management has always been part of their kuleana, part of their charge, but it hasn't been a mandate," said Haas, who previously worked at the HTA and had the Hawaiʻi Visitors and Convention Bureau as a client.

Haas said that despite the HTA's good intentions, the agency has not been ultimately successful.

"It's not their fault. The model they're working in doesn't have sufficient authority or sufficient resources," Haas told HPR. "They've had plans that have laid out the need for a more comprehensive system to manage tourism, but they haven't been able to direct other agencies or work closely with other agencies to accomplish that."

DBEDT projects over 10 million people will visit Hawaiʻi in 2024.

This interview aired on The Conversation on May 15, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Editor's note: Frank Haas is a former Hawaiʻi Public Radio board member. He is with Guild Consulting, an HPR underwriter.

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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