HONOLULU (KHON2) — Tourism numbers are still below pre-COVID pandemic levels and for the first time, the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) has to make a budget request to the state legislature.

In 2019, visitor arrivals exceeded more than 10 million, and HTA said resident sentiment toward the tourism industry was declining.

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HTA said it was already working to shifts its focus to place a greater emphasis on destination management for tourism prior to the legislature passing HB862 in 2021.

In the past, HTA was funded with a portion of the Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT) collected from guests staying in hotels and other legal accommodations. Now, HTA and the Hawaii Convention Center’s funding has transitioned from dedicated annual funding through the TAT to an annual funding request from the legislature.

For the fiscal year 2022-2023, HTA is requesting $60 million from the State’s General Fund for its programs and operations.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, HTA said its focus shifted.

“We reevaluated and we went out to community and had individual community meetings across the state, including all six visitable islands and really listened,” said Kalani Ka’ana’ana, HTA’s Chief Brand Officer. “And from that, we got this new vision and where we’re going.

Instead of marketing Hawaii’s beauty, they’re aiming to attract and educate responsible visitors while also looking at resident sentiment, visitor satisfaction, money spent and expenditures.

“Better management — we heard that loud and clear through our most recent fielding of the resident’s sentiment survey, that communities and residents are asking for better management of the volume of people at certain beaches, parks, trails, attractions, and so on,” Ka’ana’ana explained.

HTA developed a Destination Management Action Plan or ‘D-Map’ for each island by looking at hotspots, like Halona Blowhole, Kaena Point, Lanikai Pillbox Trail, as well as Kailua, Waikiki and North Shore overcrowding. These also looked at Laniakea, Maunawili Falls and spots along the Road to Hana — advocating for solutions and working with responsible agencies to improve them.

“So, we’re working with state and county agencies on reservation systems to better manage that flow, providing better education pre-arrival,” Ka’ana’ana added.

Places like Waianapanapa on Maui have added a reservation system for visitors.

Kauai’s North Shore implemented a reservation system at Haena State Park and a shuttle service to help deal with the overwhelming number of tourists 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 $60M budget request:

  • $3.7 million for payroll (6%) including salaries and fringe of $1.7 million for program staff and $2 million for non-program staff.
  • $13.6 million for Hawaiian Culture (23%) including funding support for Kukulu Ola projects that benefit the Hawaiian culture and community and that support the advancement of Destination Management Action Plan (DMAP) action items. Additionally, it includes $6.6 million in Branding Education programs focused on pre- and post- visitor education.
  • $11 million for Natural Resources (18%) including funding support for Aloha ‘Āina projects that protect, enhance and maintain Hawai‘i’s unique and fragile environment and that support the advancement of DMAP action items.
  • $13.3 million for Community (22%) including DMAP implementation on each island (including $1.8 million earmarked for HTA Planning Division’s efforts), workforce development and providing funding support to 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 $6.3M to support HTA’s Global Marketing Team, including their staffing and admin costs. Also includes $8.1 million in Other Branding costs, such as Meetings, Conventions and Incentives (MCI) and an allocation to reflect the branding efforts of the Island Chapters.
  • $2.7 million for Sports (5%) the PGA contract will be renegotiated.
  • $1.3 million: Administrative, Governance and Organization-Wide (2%) Includes operational, Board and audit costs.

“Whatever funding we get from the legislature, I want people to know that we’re thinking about how it’s spent, and making sure that we’re doing things that do two things — how do we protect this place? And how do we enhance and enrich our communities.”

Kalani Ka’ana’ana, Chief Brand Officer for Hawaii Tourism Authority

HTA launched its Malama Hawaii videos and said the educational videos are placed to reach visitors. They are also using social media and technology to get safety messages out too.

“We know we’ve had issues with monk seals and turtles and all of that, and so all of these video messages and the placements that we’re doing are in an effort to educate visitors. We know we’re not going to have 100% compliance, but that’s why we need to work with our partners and state agencies and county agencies to work on enforcement,” Ka’ana’ana explained.

“We’re focused on again, how do we educate visitors before they arrive? How do we partner with other agencies in our response to manage tourism, and that’s really something we’re striving for, again, not going to happen overnight. And this won’t be in the blink of an eye, but it’s something that we’re completely focused on.”


Many visitors said they use apps, like Yelp and Instagram, to find places to eat and explore. Most said they did not see any safety information that highlighted any dangers, like flash flooding, trespassing at culturally sensitive sites or ocean safety messages.

“We just got here and we’re going to look into hikes but definitely in a way that’s respectful because we don’t want to cause damage,” said Aaron Dallat, a visitor from Washington. “We’re guests here and we want to be good guests, but I haven’t seen anything be put out to the public.”

State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (D) is the Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and said he is hopeful Hawaii can attract a new type of visitor but added that there has to be more effort in marketing.

“There has to be a lot more effort in saying ‘please respect, and clean up after yourself,’ that all has 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 have to be ingrained into everything that they’re promoting,” Sen. Dela Cruz said. “It has to be more inclusive, involve all the messages that they’re telling us that they want to focus on.”

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As for the budget, he said more specifics are needed.

“What we want to see is that there’s going to be some money, specifically, toward those D-map efforts,” explained Sen. Dela Cruz. “It’s one thing to have it laid out how they have it, but what resources are going to be put forward so that they can get it accomplished? And also, are there a Memorandum of agreements between the other agencies and the counties to make sure that these things happen? I think the worst thing for all of us is to look at what’s under the D-map plan, be supportive of those efforts and then see that little or no progress has been made in achieving them.”