Hawaii Tourism Association and Honolulu Mayor Caldwell support for World Tourism Day

Hawaii Tourism Association and Honolulu Mayor Caldwell support for World Tourism Day

Ever since the virus started destroying the travel and tourism industry, it also destroyed the communication network for the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA). Instead of going into overdrive to communicate, HTA selected to turn off phones, let voicemails go full, and delete emails unanswered.

Tourism is supposed to be re-opening on October 15, but the Hawaii Tourism Authority remains unreachable to visitors, to media, and to the citizens of this island state.

Trying to talk to the Hawaii Tourism Authority is like talking to a brick wall.

As a state agency, this seems to be irresponsible at a time everyone is looking for guidance on how to react and deal with customers and visitors.


This publication has been unable to reach anyone at HTA ever since March and shared this frustration with Honolulu Mayor Caldwell last week. Today, the Mayor said, “I brought this concern to HTA, and hopefully they will change this.”

Fortunately, there is new leadership at the Hawaii Tourism Authority. In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the former HTA CEO and President decided to take an early retirement and escaped with his family to Colorado, leaving someone else to deal with the COVID-19 emergency.

On September 9, the new man in charge was named – John De Fries. Although the phones are still not being answered and emails are going into cyberspace, it can only be hoped that De Fries will set a different tone and initiative to allow tourism stakeholders, media, and citizens to reach out and participate in rebuilding this number one industry.

Sunday is World Tourism Day. When eTN asked Mayor Caldwell today if the state is celebrating this important day by letting the world know that Hawaii will be back soon, Mayor Caldwell strongly agreed and explained the importance of this upcoming day.

It will be seen if the Hawaii Tourism Authority will share this excitement with the Honolulu Mayor.

The privately-operated Hawaii Tourism Association (HITA) already teamed up with rebuilding.travel and will co-host a global World Tourism Day discussion on Sunday. Rebuilding.travel is another initiative started by Juergen Steinmetz, CEO of the Hawaii-based Travel News Group and publisher of Hawaii News Online and eTurboNews. Rebuilding.travel has travel and tourism leaders from 118 countries subscribed, and everyone has heard about Hawaii at the organization’s weekly meeting since every meeting starts with the word ALOHA.

The Hawaii Tourism Association was approved for the Safe Travels Stamp by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and is a partner in the Safer Tourism Seal initiative. Both the seal and the stamp can be applied for on the HITA website.

“It’s good to hear Mayor Caldwell is understanding the importance of World Tourism Day and is agreeing with the private Hawaii Tourism Association initiative,” said Juergen Steinmetz, who attended today’s press conference.

UNWTO has designated 2020 as the Year of Tourism and Rural Development. This year is an opportunity to promote the potential of tourism to create jobs and opportunities. It can also advance inclusion and highlight the unique role tourism can play in preserving and promoting natural and cultural heritage and curbing urban migration.

Co-chairman for Hawaii-based resilience.travel is none other than former UNWTO Secretary-General Dr. Taleb Rifai. He said, “In times of COVID-19, the importance of natural and cultural heritage in rural tourism becomes even more important.”

Zurab Pololikashvili, the current UNWTO Secretary-General, said: “For many rural communities, tourism means opportunity. It provides jobs and economic empowerment, including women and youth. Tourism gives rural communities the ability to protect and promote their natural surroundings, as well as their culture and heritage. In doing so, it allows tourists to enjoy unique experiences. In 2020, World Tourism Day celebrates the sector’s importance for those communities that would otherwise be left behind.”