Hawaii Tourism Authority reacts to reduction of tourism marketing funding


HONOLULU, Hawaii – “Last week, a bill, SB83, was proposed in the state senate to reallocate $3 million of HTA’s tourism marketing funds to subsidize travel expenses incurred by University of Hawaii athletic teams. The next senate committee hearing on SB83 is scheduled for this Friday at 9:30 a.m.,” said Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) President and CEO.

George D. Szigeti, President and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), continued by issuing the following statement on the impact that reducing HTA’s funding will have on the State of Hawaii.

“HTA brings a holistic approach to marketing Hawaii, showcasing culture, unique experiences and sports events to share our islands with the world. Our budget is primarily allocated to promote Hawaii tourism in North America, Japan and other markets internationally.

“We are also supporting local nonprofits that present 162 events, festivals and programs statewide to perpetuate Hawaii’s culture, environment and community spirit. These are nonprofits that rely on our funding support.

“Reducing HTA’s budget will force us to make funding cutbacks to community programs valued by residents statewide, and to our tourism marketing. Making such cutbacks would put Hawaii’s visitor industry in a more vulnerable position when vying for global travelers, especially when competing against international destinations with far greater tourism marketing funds at their disposal.

“HTA is not requesting additional funding support from the legislature. We appreciate and honor the State’s need to be prudent with how taxpayers’ funds are expended. We are currently operating with a fixed budget of $82 million that has remained unchanged for several years. Yet, in each of the past four years, Hawaii’s tourism industry has achieved record high totals in visitor arrivals and expenditures, and, today, we have the most diverse air access network in the State’s history.

“Despite this recent record of success, HTA needs to stay aggressive with Hawaii’s tourism marketing and have its entire budget available. Everyone knows how quickly outside forces, such as an economic downturn, can affect how travelers spend their money and where they choose to vacation.

“HTA’s sports marketing efforts have consistently contributed to Hawaii tourism’s overall success. In this fiscal year, we have already committed $9 million in funds to support 19 sports events statewide with a projected economic impact of $144 million for Hawaii. We are also evaluating several proposals to support additional sports events that will showcase Hawaii’s brand.

“Cutting HTA’s budget will weaken our tourism marketing on behalf of Hawaii’s visitor industry, the State’s largest economic driver and provider of jobs. We respectfully oppose any proposal that takes away funds from our budget.”