HONOLULU (KHON2) – Tourism figures are still below pre-COVID pandemic levels and for the first time the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) must submit a budget request to the state legislature.
In 2019, visitor arrivals topped more than 10 million, and HTA said residents’ sentiment towards the tourism industry was down.
HTA said it was already working to shift its focus to put more emphasis on destination management for tourism ahead of the legislature. HB862 in 2021.
In the past, the ETS was funded with part of the Transient accommodation tax (TAT) collected from customers staying in hotels and other legal accommodation. Now, funding for HTA and the Hawaii Convention Center has shifted from dedicated annual funding through the TAT to an annual funding request from the Legislature.
For the 2022-2023 fiscal year, HTA is requesting $60 million from the State General Fund for its programs and operations.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, HTA said its focus changed.
“We reassessed and went out into the community and held one-on-one community meetings across the state, including all six visitable islands, and really listened,” said Kalani Ka’ana’ana, director of the HTA brand. “And from there, we had this new vision and where we are going.
Instead of marketing Hawaii’s beauty, they focus on attracting and educating responsible visitors while examining resident sentiment, visitor satisfaction, dollars spent and expenses.
“Better Management – We heard it loud and clear in our last Resident Sentiment Survey that communities and residents are asking for better management of the volume of people at certain beaches, parks, trails, attractions, etc. Ka’ana’ana explained.
HTA has developed a Destination Management Action Plan or ‘D-Map’ for each island looking at hotspots, like Halona Blowhole, Kaena Point, Lanikai Pillbox Trail, as well as overcrowded Kailua, Waikiki, and North Shore. These also examined Laniakea, Maunawili Falls and places along the Road to Hana — recommend solutions and work with the responsible organizations to improve them.
“So we’re working with state and county agencies on reservation systems to better manage that flow, providing better pre-arrival education,” Ka’ana’ana added.
places like Waianapanapa in Maui added a reservation system for visitors.
The North Shore of Kauai has implemented a reservation system at Haena State Park and a shuttle service to help cope with the overwhelming number of tourist cars flooding its narrow roads. The Garden Isle is also considering charging visitors to park at crowded beaches.
Here is a breakdown of HTA’s $60 million budget request:
- $3.7 million for payroll (6%) including salaries and benefits of $1.7 million for program staff and $2 million for non-program staff.
- $13.6 million for Hawaiian culture (23%), including financial support for Kukulu Ola projects that benefit Hawaiian culture and community and support the advancement of Action Plan action items destination management (DMAP). Additionally, it includes $6.6 million in brand education programs focused on pre- and post-visitor education.
- $11 million for natural resources (18%), including financial support for Aloha ‘Āina projects that protect, enhance, and maintain Hawai’i’s unique and fragile environment and support the advancement of elements of action of DMAP.
- $13.3 million for the community (22%), including the implementation of the DMAP on each island (including $1.8 million allocated to the efforts of the Planning Division of the ETS), the development labor and providing financial support for community enrichment programs. Includes $1.2 million in safety and security programs, such as visitor assistance programs on each island.
- $14.4 million for branding (24%) including $6.3 million to support HTA’s global marketing team, including their personnel and administration costs. Also includes $8.1 million in costs from other brands, such as Meetings, Conventions and Incentives (MCI) and an allowance to reflect Island chapter branding efforts.
- $2.7 million for Sports (5%) PGA contract will be renegotiated.
- $1.3 million: administrative, governance and organization-wide (2%) Includes operating, board and audit costs.
HTA launched its Videos Malama Hawaii and said the educational videos are placed to reach visitors. They also use social media and technology to spread safety messages.
“We know we’ve had issues with monk seals and turtles and all that, and so all of these video messages and placements that we do are aimed at educating visitors. We know we won’t achieve 100% compliance, but that’s why we need to work with our partners and state and county agencies to work on enforcement,” Ka’ana’ana explained.
“We are again focusing on how to educate visitors before they arrive? How can we partner with other agencies in our response to manage tourism, and that’s really something we’re looking for, again, that won’t happen overnight. And it won’t be a snap, but it’s something we’re completely focused on.
KALANI KA’ANA’ANA, BRAND MANAGER FOR HAWAII TOURISM AUTHORITY
Many visitors said they use apps, like Yelp and Instagram, to find places to eat and explore. Most said they had not seen safety information highlighting hazards, such as flash floods, trespassing on culturally sensitive sites or messages about ocean safety.
“We’ve just arrived and will be considering some hikes but definitely in a respectful way because we don’t want to cause any damage,” said Aaron Dallat, a visitor from Washington. “We are guests here and we want to be good guests, but I haven’t seen anything released to the public.”
State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (D) is the chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and said he hopes Hawaii can attract a new type of visitor, but added that more needs to be done marketing efforts.
“There needs to be a lot more effort to say ‘please respect and clean up after yourself’, that it’s all got to be in the marketing, not just attracting and not just showing the great pictures of what all the beauty has to offer, but those messages need to be embedded in everything they promote,” Sen. Dela Cruz said. “It needs to be more inclusive, involving all the messages they tell us that they want to focus on. “
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Regarding the budget, he said more details are needed.
“What we want to see is that there will be money, in particular, for these D-map efforts,” Sen. Dela Cruz explained. “It’s one thing to have presented it the way they have, but what resources are going to be put forward so that they can do it? And also, is there a memorandum of understanding between the other agencies and the counties to make sure these things happen? I think the worst thing for all of us is to look at what’s within the scope of the D-map, support those efforts, and then see that little or no progress has been made in achieving them.