The never-say-die Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), itself on the verge of possible elimination, has just launched a new website, “Holomua.” It is intended to share with visitors the progress and updates on each of the islands’ community-based Destination Management Action Plans (DMAPs), which are of unclear value to visitors. DMAPs are an effort to balance tourism benefits and impact in relation to natural resources and over-visited areas.
It is entirely without wonder why those of us in Hawaii travel have said that we survived and thrived for decades despite the state’s politics. Now that is more true than ever before. Not only that, but this comes at the very same time that the state legislature is looking at either overhauling or eliminating the same Hawaii Tourism Authority.
Outspoken state representative Sean Quinlan said that while HTA has done a good job at selling Hawaii, what’s needed is a shift to better management of the state’s resources for both residents and visitors. Quinlan is the author of a bill intended to make that change of focus law. “What this will be doing is updating statutes and its mission positions to reflect a much larger investment: destination management, which is an investment in our local communities.”
What is Holomua about, and who is it for?
The website, whose name means progress, is a conglomeration of stories, reports, and updates about each of the island’s management plans, plus more about regenerative tourism, natural resources, culture, visitor education, and other programs.
HTA’s DMAP planning director (Caroline Anderson) said, “Our new website serves as a valuable resource for the public to learn more about the initiatives and activities we have undertaken as well as those in close partnership with our fellow state agencies, the counties, Island Visitors Bureaus, community organizations, and partners to better manage tourism.”
Gone-wrong Hawaii green fee enters.
One suggestion is that the money to help fund the preservation of Hawaii’s natural resources emanates from a $50 green fee, which continues to be thrown around, albeit anemically. Once intended by Gov. Josh Green to be a blanket fee charged to all visitors on entry to the state, it has morphed into a fee to be charged only to Hawaii visitors who use any state resources, such as state beaches, parks, and trails. And even then, the implementation of the fees is now looking to be sometime around 2028.
Quinlan said, “If we can implement some kind of a green fee system, and we could get DLNR an estimated $100 million a year, there’s a lot that we could do with that money in terms of taking care of natural resources.”
Will Hawaii Tourism Authority morph or be eliminated entirely?
Hawaii lawmakers are looking at entirely eliminating the Hawaii Tourism Authority. If that were to come to pass, the prior role would be assumed by the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism. Quinlan’s plan is for the focus there to be on destination management exclusively rather than destination marketing.
It comes just as an interesting juxtaposition to what we’ve just indicated: an upcoming summer in Hawaii that is already not shaping up in the way that Hawaii travel businesses, like hotels, for example, had hoped.
In February, HTA suggested among other things that it “Does Not Encourage Visiting:” Waikiki, Diamond Head, Volcanoes, Poipu, Etc.”
Furthermore, the state’s confidence in HTA has been completely eroded over many years, curtailing their funding. They continue to try new things, like this website. But failed efforts, including multiple rounds of questionable bidding processes towards management and marketing partners, have continued to make the agency look foolish or worse. That failure in itself has caused more feelings that now is the time to end HTA permanently. One bill states clearly, “The legislature finds that it is necessary and appropriate to dissolve the Hawaii tourism authority.”
Why does destination management sound like visitor control?
Maybe it’s just us, but the name seems derogatory somehow from the outset. Instead of promoting natural resource conservation and the like, even the name rings like visitor management. Just another way in which Hawaii has been and remains tone-deaf to its only real source of income. Quinlan proves that point, saying, “I want anyone who works in this agency to start and finish with destination management.” One bill calls for a “Hawaii tourism czar.”