HONOLULU (KHON2) — The future of how Hawaii will be advertised to the world and who will control it, remains in limbo after the Hawaii Tourism Authority voted to make changes to the state’s biggest tourism marketing contract and put it back up for bid.
After months of disputes, HTA will be starting from scratch, splitting the state’s multi-million dollar brand marketing management contract for the U.S.
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“The board met in an executive session to get some legal counsel from our Deputy Attorney General, had some discussion in public session and decided to pursue two RFPs,” explained Ilihia Gionson, spokesperson for HTA.
The decision scraps two previous requests for proposals, that had already been awarded.
The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement was awarded the contract to manage marketing for the leisure market in June after it protested a contract first awarded to The Hawaii Visitor’s & Convention Bureau who had been the vendor for decades. Then HVCB protested and was re-awarded the deal.
Things got even more heated in early December, when outgoing director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, Mike McCartney, rescinded the contract again just minutes before his term ended.
Deputy Attorney General, Gregg Kinkley, answered a number of questions by the board regarding the lawfulness of the way things had been handled before they came to their conclusion.
“Were there any violations of chapter 103D?” asked Kinkley. “No,” he said answering his own question.
Details regarding how things will be split and what the new contracts will include are to be decided.
“When that request for proposals comes out, we are expecting that to happen in January, then everyone will see what’s in the scope for those,” Gionson explained.
HVCB is handling marketing duties through March 2023, which will likely be extended according to Gionson.
“What the board voted on today was to seek approval from the State Procurement Office for a further extension to the end of June to provide some transition period.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for HVCB said: “This has been more than a year-long process for both CNHA and the Hawaiʻi Visitors and Convention Bureau that has been very expensive for both parties and also impacted our communities that we all reside in. We appreciate the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority Board’s acknowledgment of the weakening economic conditions in the US market and the predicted recession in 2023. It is therefore important that Hawaiʻi maintains the cadence in market with visitor education and pre-arrival messaging, such as the Mālama Hawaiʻi campaign through a strategic media campaign and travel trade marketing. We hope the state procurement officer will agree.”
“We are also encouraged with the vote for the two RFP processes for the US MMA in that new procurement. This is a step forward to better manage two very different functions as we seek to educate our visitors, as well as market and manage the destination. After two failed RFP attempts, we believe this bifurcation of the previous RFP is the best path forward for all involved,” stated HVCB.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed,” said Kuhio Lewis, president of CNHA. “It’s now been a year and a half worth of extension that HVCB has received while this procurement has gone on. So we have to decide what we’re going to do as an organization. I mean, we’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at this point. And this is just not right, what’s going on.”
Lewis said they are exploring legal options.
According to Gionson, HTA is also seeking approval to extend the island chapter services contract, set to expire Dec. 31. He said if that lapses destination management and visitor education functions on the neighboring islands will no longer be provided.
KHON2’s parent company Nexstar Media Inc is a subcontractor of CNHA.