HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Native Hawaiian groups are ramping up pressure to save funding for the Hawaii Tourism Authority as lawmakers consider a massive cut.
A bill, which was recently amended by the Senate, seeks to eliminates HTA funding for programs that support visitor assistance, local entrepreneurs, sustainability and cultural training.
“Help us ... prevent the turning back of the clock to the dark ages of Hawaii tourism,” said former Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Peter Apo, a founding board member of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association.
“That could be truly a disaster.”
Added Mehana Hind, senior vice president for the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement: “Now with what the Legislature is proposing to do is taking a step back, taking 10 steps back.”
Senators said the HTA should focus on marketing while other agencies can fund the cultural programs.
Critics said the bill slashed the HTA’s funding for nonprofits such as the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii and the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association.
“Organizations like VASH, organizations like NHHA that are on the front line, will be heavily impacts and could result in closing,” said John Aeto, president of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association.
The bill is headed to a Senate-House conference, where House members are less supportive of the cuts.