HONOLULU (KHON2) — A bill moving through the legislature is proposing big changes to how Hawaii is marketed to the world. Rep. Sean Quinlan (D) who chairs the House Tourism Committee, who introduced the bill, said it’s about improving the quality of life for residents.

Hawaii’s economy relies heavily on tourism. In 1998, the Hawaii Tourism Authority [HTA] was created to support the industry and market Hawaii to the world.

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Now, millions travel to the islands every year, crowding our beaches, hiking trails and roads.

“But, the reality is that times have changed; and the sentiment of our residents has changed,” Quinlan said. “And, I think that we’ve all come to terms with the fact that 10 million, 11 million [visitors] a year is probably too much.”

So, Quinlan introduced House Bill 1375 that would repeal HTA and create the Destination Management Agency.

“What I’m proposing with this bill is that we start doing things for us, for the local residents,” Quinlan said. “The tourism authority was conceived as a marketing agency, and we later added destination management and cultural practices to it. I think we need to invert that relationship.”

Quinlan said the new agency would be run by the state. The governor would appoint three full-time employees to oversee it, eliminating the current 12 member HTA board.

And, it would be funded with money from the transit accommodation tax.

“I think it’s very appropriate that the visitor pays for their own impacts,” added Quinlan.

HTA Public Affairs officer Ilihia Gionson said they are already doing the work of destination management.

“Although it isn’t in our name, it is definitely at the heart of what we do,” Gionson explained. “The malama Hawaii, malama ku’u home, or care for this beloved home of ours.”

HTA’s strategic plan for 2020 to 2025 outlines their shift in focus to a more regenerative tourism model.

“Ahead of making any major structural changes to HTA, which is responsible by statute for managing the visitor industry and its effects. You know, we would recommend considering a study on alternative models of tourism governance,” Gionson said.

The bill recently passed its second reading in the Tourism and Economic Development committees almost unanimously.

Rep. Elijah Pierick voted against it.

“It asks to use the state budget and asks to use tax dollars to address the tourism issue,” Pierick explained. “I believe in conservatism; I believe in limited government. I believe in lower taxes. So, from that perspective, I voted no.”

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According to Quinlan the bill is being referred to the House Water and Land Committee next. And, he said he doesn’t think the bill will impact the RFP seeking a contractor to manage the multi-million dollar brand marketing for the U.S.