HTA puts out third call for U.S. tourism contract

Feb. 15—The Hawaii Tourism Authority kicked off its third procurement for a U.S. tourism contract by soliciting bids for a contractor to provide Hawaii tourism destination brand management and marketing services for the U.S. market.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority kicked off its third procurement for a U.S. tourism contract by soliciting bids for a contractor to provide Hawaii tourism destination brand management and marketing services for the U.S. market.

At the same time, it also issued a request for proposals to provide support services for destination stewardship across all markets.

HTA originally selected longtime contractor the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau for the multimillion-­dollar U.S. tourism award on Dec. 2, 2021. Former Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism Director Mike McCartney, acting as HTA's head of purchasing agency, rescinded the contract award in 2021 following an unresolved protest from the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.

When HTA embarked in 2022 on a second round in the request-for-­proposals process, HVCB lost to CNHA and filed its own protest. McCartney rescinded CNHA's award on his last day on the job, Dec. 5, citing the "best interest of the state "—the same reason he gave for HVCB's earlier rescission.

The HTA board of directors decided at its Dec. 22 meeting to seek two requests for proposals instead of just one, and on Monday, HTA issued requests for the new proposals, which both have tight March deadlines.

Timelines in HTA's requests for proposals anticipate that the contract for destination stewardship will start May 22 and run through June 30, 2026, with a possibility of two one-year extensions. The U.S. brand management and marketing contract is expected to start June 1 and will end Dec. 31, 2025. The start date allows for a transition if one is needed, as HVCB's current contract extension expires June 30.

The pressure is on for the fast-paced selection to run smoothly, as controversy over HTA's prior solicitation attempts has drawn strong criticism from the state Legislature, where three bills have been introduced to repeal the agency.

House Bill 1375 on Tuesday passed through the second of three referral committees. The bill, introduced by Rep. Sean Quinlan (D, Waialua-­Kahuku-Waiahole ) and other House members, would repeal HTA's board and refashion the organization as a destination management agency overseen by a paid, governor-appointed, three-­member commission administratively placed within DBEDT.

It would fund the new agency through a $100 million allocation from transient accommodations tax revenue, of which $50 million would be earmarked for a matching fund program to support Destination Management Action Plan projects throughout the counties.

Senate Bill 1522, introduced by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (D, Wahiawa-Whitmore-­Mililani Mauka ), who chairs the Senate Ways and Mean Committee, will be heard at 1 p.m. Thursday by the Senate Committee on Energy, Economic Development and Tourism. It proposes to dissolve the HTA and its board, instead establishing under DBEDT an Office of Tourism and Destination Management with a goal toward regenerative tourism and best ­-practice destination management.

Its companion House Bill 1376 has not been scheduled for a hearing.

HTA's new solicitations are heavy on destination management, which state lawmakers and the community have increasingly pushed for. Requirements for the U.S. market brand management and marketing services contract include :—Running a pre-arrival communications program that provides tourists with specific information about safe, respectful and mindful travel that will be coordinated with HTA's on-island programs to provide a seamless message throughout a visitor's stay.—Driving visitor spending into supporting local businesses, agricultural products and made-in-­Hawaii goods in partnership with HTA, DBEDT and the private sector.—Targeting brand marketing to mindful travelers in alignment with key performance indicators established in HTA's 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, namely increasing average daily visitor spending, total visitor spending, visitor satisfaction and resident sentiment toward tourism.

The request for proposals for support services for destination stewardship says its requirements cover a "suite of services to assist HTA in destination management, heeding the call of the community." These include :—Running post-arrival visitor education efforts.—Managing HTA programs that provide funding to perpetuate Hawaiian culture, provide stewardship of natural resources and support community events and initiatives.—Providing technical assistance and capacity-building for organizations and businesses that are advancing the goals of HTA's Destination Management Action plans.—Developing a quality assurance program to ensure visitor satisfaction and setting standards for customer experience and environmental stewardship.—Creating a tour guide certification program.—Launching a Hawaiian culture initiative to provide culturally appropriate greetings and entertainment in resort areas.—Standing up "smart " tourism projects that will seek technology-enabled solutions to manage tourism, including hot-spot management.

Further details about the RFPs can be found at.