HTA study examines reinventing tourism oversight

The Hawaii Tourism Authority received an unfavorable rating from 43% of the stakeholders who gave feedback to the contractor working on a tourism governance structure recommendation.

Denise Miller, executive vice president of SMARInsights, told the HTA board during a special meeting Monday that “the overall rating for HTA is more negative than positive, with a mean rating of 4.7 on a 10-point scale.”


Miller presented a slide to HTA that said the findings from 690 survey-takers highlight “the need for major changes at the organization. It has lost the confidence of its stakeholders, and minor adjustments will not be enough to reverse the negative perceptions and attitudes about the organization.”

Miller said “inefficiency and mismanagement” were among the key negative perceptions noted, along with an “insufficient focus on local and small-business needs, and perceived negative government involvement and over-regulation.”

She is part of a team assembled by Cathy Ritter, founder of Better Destinations LLC, the contractor hired by HTA to conduct an independent, third-party tourism governance study. The team also includes Karey Kapoi, owner of Karey Kapoi, and Place Generation co-founders Elke Dens and Frank Cuypers.

HTA board Chair Mufi Hannemann said the HTA board approved the $300,000 study at a low point after several contentious state legislative sessions, which resulted in lawmakers defunding the agency for two years and threatening its very existence.

Hannemann said HTA came out of this year’s state legislative session better than when it entered, and this time HTA is asking the tough questions of itself.

He said state lawmakers approved a recurring $63 million budget and codified HTA’s role in destination management. Hannemann said lawmakers approved $64 million to fix the Hawai‘i Convention Center and raised the center’s expenditure ceiling for operations and maintenance to $34 million.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email