There’s a cloud over Hawaii Tourism, and its called SB 2187. This bill authorizes the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) to “maintain the confidentiality of competitively sensitive information.”
The confidentiality extends to how and where they’ll be spending their $88 million tourism promotion budget, and this has led to a public spat between the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) and the Hawaii Tourism Association (HiTA).
The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) is Hawaii’s official lead agency responsible for overseeing tourism. HTA gets its funding from the transient accommodations tax (TAT) collections that is assessed on hotels.
The Hawaii Tourism Association (HiTA) is a private membership organization which does not get any public funding and is not affiliated to the HTA.
The justification given by the HTA for wanting closed-doors board meetings and keeping data and strategy under wraps was explained by HTA President and CEO Mike McCartney.
He says that “where and what we do with our tactics don’t necessarily need to be shared with our competitors.” McCartney also adds that having to disclose the dates and times of a media blitz puts Hawaii at a competitive disadvantage.
The main argument, though, seems to center around the HTA’s expansive definition of sensitive information that needs to remain a secret – board meetings, budget allocations and contracts, tourism and research data such as airline passenger surveys and questionnaires, and database records of all the information.
Is all this necessary to keep the competition guessing? And will it really help Hawaii Tourism’s bottomline? Their legislators apparently think so, since SB 2187 has passed the legislature and has been sent to Gov. Linda Lingle for her signature.
But HiTA says the HTA is trying to hide details of how and where the $88m budget is being spent, and they now want the Governor to veto the bill.
End of the day, whether its good or bad for Hawaii will depend on how the HTA conducts itself. If they get complacent in the secrecy and end up in another sordid scandal like the Rex Johnson episode, then Hawaii’s legislature and Governor won’t have anyone to blame but themselves.
Photo – Ken Lund