2023 Hawaii Travel Ignites

Hawaii Tourism Switch Up As Travel Veterans Join In

Today Governor Green announced that two new tourism-related members have been added to the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) Board of Directors. Effective July 7, 2023, they have been appointed for terms expiring in June 2026.

Blaine Miyasato, someone we’ve long known and respected, comes to HTA with almost four decades of airline industry experience. He started as a flight attendant at Hawaiian in 1985. His other roles at Hawaiian include most recently, State Government Affairs Managing Director. He was also the first VP of In-Flight Services, and has held various other positions encompassing nearly the full breadth of that company’s activities. Blaine also serves on the board of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii and was born and raised in Hawaii.

James (Jimmy) Tokioka, from Kauai, comes to the HTA board as current Director of the state’s DBEDT (Tourism Department). Previously Jimmy was appointed just last December to be deputy director of Hawaii DOT/Airports. He is a long-time Kauai politician, having served 10 years on its County Council and 16 years in the Hawaii House of Representatives, from which he resigned when he went to the DOT. He has extensive tourism industry experience including restaurants and hotels.

Blaine is awaiting confirmation by the Hawaii State Senate, while Jimmy does not require confirmation. The HTA board is made up of 12 volunteer members who help guide the state’s work. Our sense is that these two will be solid additions, especially Blaine.

These two appointees together have many decades of direct first-hand experience with the Hawaii travel industry. The governor seems to be setting up a HTA board that will be in a better position to help balance Hawaii travel going forward.

HTA almost bit the dust in last legislative session.

Perhaps with this new leadership addition in place, the HTA will actually have a future. Jimmy Tokioka has said he’ll work with stakeholders to keep HTA viable. How much funding will be forthcoming isn’t clear, although with these new players in place, funds are likely to reappear. That as the HTA seeks to improve its terrible relationship with legislators.

HTA is long and deeply troubled.

Hawaii has a vision of leading in a sustainable travel model. It will be fascinating to see if HTA’s two vendors, legacy partner Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) and the new partner Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) can come together under the HTA’s guidance on Hawaii’s travel future.

Previously the state’s UH research arm UHERO, criticized HTA’s Hawaii travel planning.

Among other things, there is concern that HTA’s controversial plans tend to marginalize tourists, while at the same time not having the backing of the state or the authority needed to ever be implemented.

Among its other problems, HTA has long been criticized for having little or no oversight of the monies it spends due to inadequate controls. That was according to information from the Hawaii State Auditor’s report.

Is Hawaii travel marketing still essential?

How and what Hawaii messages the world is important if it wants to set expectations and create a positive and balanced environment for both visitors and residents. Without such plans and the ability to enact them, Hawaii will be left unable to achieve its goals of improving both its tourism experience and the impact of tourism.

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