The election in Hawaii is in full swing. Candidate and current Governor Ige has his hands full, not only for a possible second term in office but for a disaster in the making. This disaster is Hawaii’s largest industry – the travel and tourism industry.
On Friday, Frank Haas had a conversation with Hawaii Governor Ige in the Governor’s office.
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Frank Haas is a principal at Marketing Management. From 2002 to 2007, he was the Vice President of Marketing for the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA). After leaving HTA, he was the Dean at University of Hawaii Systems.
As a tourism marketing professional, Frank Haas shares concerns about the recent scandals, audits, and news coming from HTA, along with the recent termination of George Szigeti, CEO and President of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
When Frank Haas had the chance to discuss HTA with Governor Ige on Friday, it was the day George Szigeti was fired. Frank stressed the fact that he has been involved in tourism and thinking about its impacts for a long time.
He shared his concern about the current conditions.
Haas said, “What worked when we had 4 million visitors isn’t working with 10 million.”
He discussed with the Governor, the problems of a declining economic impact, real spending, and spending per resident.
Alarming in Hawaii is what is known under “over tourism” and overuse of tourism infrastructure. This is leading to a declining visitor experience and shows a lack of long-term vision.
HTA has shown no effective coordination for all of the issues that impact tourism, including vacation rentals, the homeless issue, park conditions, and community impacts, among other things.
According to Frank Haas, the approach by Senator Wakai of wanting to cut the budget is not as the Senator says will result in taking the foot off the gas. It would actually result in taking the hands off the steering wheel.
Frank Haas has a solution for this and shared his thoughts with the Governor. The role of HTA should be reviewed. HTA should have more directive but broader authorities.
Hawaii Tourism Authority needs an adequate budget to address all of the issues related to tourism, and not only to market tourism.
From mass tourism to class tourism could be a way forward for Hawaii. The tourism industry should focus on micro markets and identify them to be able to focus on known high-spending tourists causing a low impact.
HTA has to show more expertise and more direction to its contractors. State Tourism leaders should stop focusing on arrival numbers only.
Tourism should be diversified by exporting tourism services, including training, architecture, and planning.
A major investment is needed to invest in the right experience.
The Hawaii Convention Center should shift and tailor to high-end meetings.
Festivals and events, parks, trails, beaches, and visitor safety are all areas that need improvement and support.
With the shifting in HTA, a long-needed change in direction seems to be on the horizon. It may be good news for Hawaii Tourism.