Since we last reported on what’s going on with Hawaii marketing, the state’s Hawaii Tourism Authority and its marketing contractors, things have gotten much worse. We mention this from the point of view of visitors and the Hawaii travel industry, which is our sole focus. How Hawaii develops and conveys its messaging to the world is of critical importance to creating a good situation for all concerned.
As we anticipated would happen, the losing contractor, 100-year-old HVCB (Hawaii Visitor and Convention Bureau), filed its protest yesterday to the multi-year $100M contract award going to newcomer CNHA (Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement).
The contract is for the bulk of Hawaii’s tourism marketing, including its mainland brand management as well as global support services. There are other minor contracts that’ll be coming up soon, but we’ll focus for the time being on this one, which is by far the biggest and most important to Hawaii marketing.
This is the first time that the HTA contract has gone to anyone other than HVCB.
Here’s the unprecedented chain of events. HVCB first received the official nod for another multi-year contract. Thereafter, the current winner, CNHA, which again appears to have no marketing or hospitality experience based on their website, contested the award. Subsequently, the state of Hawaii rescinded the award. A second RFP was created, and this time, the loser became the winner. But there’s much more to it than that.
HTA will now need to investigate the complaint and determine 1) whether the award was in the best interest of the state and 2) was the second RFP process fair to both HVCB and CNHA.
BOH received the email released by current loser HVCB yesterday, which you can read below.
Big trouble ahead, as the process may not have been fair.
Due to the legal nature of the matter, additional comments from HTA will be limited for now, as will those from the two bidders.
The “coconut wireless” however, indicates that the process may indeed not have been fair, and it remains questionable whether hiring a company with no marketing or travel industry background was appropriate for the state of Hawaii.
While we don’t have all the details, it is being alleged that how the scoring of the latest proposals was done was inappropriate, which is reflected in a non-marketing organization obtaining the lead marketing contract for the state. We’re told to expect, among other things, the obvious investigation into the qualifications of CNHA for the new primary Hawaii marketing role.
There are also questions being raised about the integrity of the scoring process by the HTA and its judges who were evaluating the latest RFPs. It’s rumored that at least some of the judges weren’t impartial. but were instead disposed to CNHA winning without regard to either their track record, abilities, team or the integrity of their proposal. The makeup of the judging team changed significantly between RFPs, for reasons not clear.
Heads are going to roll over this. That’s virtually certain.
The new contract will be held in abeyance until this is somehow resolved, and the state will also somehow have to “fill the gap” in Hawaii marketing. We expect an announcement soon from HTA on just how that’s going to happen, and by whom.
Next, HTA will investigate its own process, which in itself seems suspect and lacking clear objectivity. If the protest by HVCB is not acceeded to by HTA, then the state will implement an administrative review process outside HTA. Thus, this will be going on for months, if not longer. Even after that, the administrative review can then be appealed in state court. It looks like time for the parties to lawyer-up.
This problem is causing concern among many in the Hawaii travel industry, since it impacts mainland visitors, Hawaii’s primary source of income. Stay tuned for the next laundry update… will more dirt be released or will everything come clean?