Rising Costs Continue To Drive Down Hawaii Visitors

Hawaii To Air $100M Dirty Travel Marketing Laundry

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 Subsequently, the state of Hawaii rescinded the award.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.

Read: Breaking: Hawaii’s Marketing Pivots To Native Hawaiians.

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?

19 thoughts on “Hawaii To Air $100M Dirty Travel Marketing Laundry”

  1. Thank you for publishing this story. Look forward to more info as the contract gets investigated. Maybe we should take a year of of promotion and greet all people arriving in Hawaii. It is something the tourist asks about and expects. 🌺.

  2. Does Hawaii really need to advertise to drum up visitors? I live in Florida and my wife and I have visited the state several times in the past year. On each trip, i believe it was not uncommon for news features discussing how many tourists are on the islands and here crowded it has become. I get it and I agree. Heck, Honolulu enacted an ordinance that greatly expands the rental time for condos which will likely discourage visitors to that beautiful city. From the outside looking in, there must be a balance for all parties involved.. visitors…businesses…the residents of Hawaii. Last but not least I know a few years back when Lahaina needed a road ‘bypass’ that dark clouds loomed.

  3. The HTA should be abolished and everything go back to the HVCB as it was in the past.

    Somewhere in this torrid marketing scheme probably lurks another chapter of corruption like we have with HPD, the former prosecutor and legislators.

    Why yield our #1 revenue producing industry to the whim and inexperienced CNHA? It doesn’t make sense.

  4. Go. Get. A. Real. Job. Clearly you didn’t manage as well as you thought you did. 🤷🏽‍♀️

  5. This is quite interesting reading. As an Oahu timeshare owner and frequent Hawaii visitor I appreciate you keeping us updated on the latest Hawaiian news–especially that pertaining to tourism. Thank you for your efforts.

    1. Hi Dawn.

      Stars are well aligned for nice comments! Thanks so much for that. Glad we can be of use.


  6. With the concern about over tourism, why not take a break from marketing and use the money somewhere else? I know it sounds like I’m being facetious, but there is a question if the marketing money is being managed properly.

  7. I love your newsletter, and it has helped me save money and stay informed on many occasions, so thank you! My wife and I had reserved a condo for the month of May 2023 on Oahu’s Goldcoast but had to cancel the reservation due to Bill 41. I totally understand the need to limit tourist traffic in the residential areas of Oahu – we have experienced the crowds in Lanikai ourselves – but I thought that had been addressed in 2019 with the 30-day rule. Do you have a take on this new law, and do you think there is a chance that existing short-term rentals will end up being grandfathered in? Again thank you for your thoughtful and informative posts.

    1. Hi Stig.

      Thank you! Bill 41 didn’t change short-term rentals, only those that were previously already long-term at 30 days minimum. This is not going to change from what we see.


    2. A thirty day rental and a 7 day rental makes no difference. It’s still people visiting. Stop victimizing small business who rent short term. That train left the station. It was paid for by the hotel lobby to the corrupt politicians.

    3. Though STRs often are accused of contributing to Hawaii’s housing crisis, and creating annoyances and burdens for neighborhoods, Benivacation rental owners instead are “a scapegoat for the politicians” in Honolulu.
      “If there’s a problem with affordable housing,” she said, “they blame the vacation rentals. If there’s a problem with noise in the neighborhood, they blame the vacation rentals.”

  8. Aloha, I will admit to not knowing much about marketing but how much does Hawaii need to market itself. I think everyone on the planet knows how nice it is. Give that money to native Hawaiians for housing. New Big Island resident who sees first hand the housing problem.

    1. Think of it this way, everyday babies are being born and kids are learning their states. Not everyone knows where or what Hawaii is. Some people are from parts of the world where they do not know Hawaii like you do. It’s important for Hawaii to share the land with tourist bc we buy from the mainland and other parts of the world. Hawaii today wouldn’t be the way it is without tourism. You enjoy Walmart and target and Amazon, no? Think of how all our lives would be without the ability to fly and have these conveniences in your life.

      1. Hi Guys, once again you’ve opened a can of comments. Everything in today’s life seems so manipulated.One option would be to have them both work together and teach each other. The best of both sides. Is that so hard to figure out for them? Mahalo for the excellent coverage of all news in Hawaii. Happy Summertime to you both. Hang in there, stay cool.

      2. Exactly! It’s like being in Anchorage Alaska in the mid 70’s High grocery prices, no where to get lumber supplies, except Pay N Pak and McKays Hardware who was typically out of inventory, made a big difference when the Lowes, Costco’s and Walmarts showed up..

    2. Tammy P.,

      As we just returned from a trip to the BI, I wanted to add that we also saw a serious housing problem all around the BI (as we drove the entire island). Throughout our journey, I don’t think we encountered any house either of us would feel comfortable living in – at least not one we would have a remote chance of affording. Even the housing in the smaller towns around the BI had neighborhoods with houses shoe horned into a far too small area and I had to wonder about the utilities connected to these houses as well (if they were indeed connected at all). FWIW: we did find the quality of housing improved the higher we went in elevation. I agree with you this is a subject the state and local governments of HI need to address.

  9. It’s time that native Hawaiians take the reign of our islands back though we need to end this paradise travel nonsense. It’s like acting out of desperation enough is enough visitors come with this attitude of we don’t need to do what you tell us even though we are visiting your home all this BS about spending so much money blah blah blah

    1. I would like to better understand your perspective and statement “visitors come with this attitude of we don’t need to do what you tell us even though we are visiting your home”.

      What are locals telling visitors to do that visitors are not being responsive to?


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