Resolving tourism marketing dispute will fall to incoming governor

Incoming governor Josh Green says he will broker a deal to end the dispute over how to market tourism to Hawaii.
Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 5:57 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 29, 2022 at 9:36 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Incoming Gov. Josh Green says he will broker a deal to end the dispute over how to market tourism to Hawaii.

That’s despite the Ige Administrations last-ditch effort to have the contracts rebid.

In October, after two challenged bid proposals, the state announced that the end to a dispute over the $40 million contract to market and manage Hawaii tourism was near ― with the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau and Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement sharing the work.

The process of negotiation and discussion brought the two organizations closer, said John De Fries, CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, which is responsible for marketing Hawaii.

“The two of them along the way have found the value in each other in moving us forward,” De Fries told Howard Dicus on Hawaii News Now Sunrise. “Not only in a global marketing level but also the responsibilities attended to managing tourism as we go forward.”

On Monday, with just four days left of the Ige Administration, state Director of Business, Economic Development and Tourism Mike McCartney told senators there would be another bid process and he was ready to immediately cancel the award to CNHA.

“I have the preliminary documents that I was going to sign here today and go forward with the recommendation,” McCartney said.

He also said that the mediation efforts and discussions with state attorneys had led to the conclusion that rebidding two contracts would avoid more potential challenges and litigation and new doubts about the procurement process.

What we came up with is better definition what is marketing and defining what is destination marketing,” he said.

But Republican state Sen. Kurt Favella said he opposed cancelling the award to CNHA, despite the challenge from HVCB, suggesting that the opposition to CNHA was rooted in resistance to giving Native Hawaiians equal opportunity.

“The Hawaiians bite the dust again, Mike,” Favella shouted.

“We talk about this over and over. When are we going to be on the same playing field as everybody else? Nobody wants the Hawaiians ... to have all that money and that’s the truth.”

Other senators questioned why the Tourism Authority is needed if state officials are making all the marketing decisions. State Sen. Donavan Delacruz, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, asked why McCartney could not take his plan to the HTA board.

McCartney said he would “take that under advisement,” and later agreed he would have no chance to meet the board before leaving his position next Monday. That’s the day Green will be inaugurated.

Green told Hawaii News Now he will seek a faster resolution than a re-bid.

“I do believe both parties were happy come to agreement,” Green said. “I don’t want us to waste resources on litigation. I don’t want to waste time waiting to establish managed tourism. So let’s get on with it.”

Green said his new DBEDT Director and Chief of Staff Brooke Wilson will tasked with working out the deal and he is open to the idea that both competing organizations will share the contract.