Advocates For Consumer Rights

Hawaii Tourism Authority Reform

AFCR Communications Director Scott Foster has been writing internationally and locally about Hawaii tourism and other complex issues for the past 30+ years. In February 2018, the Hawaii State Auditor released yet another “scathing” audit of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA). Scott immediately sought out and joined with several experts in the fields of tourism marketing and economics in order to produce the following series of articles detailing the problems with HTA. While the results have been gratifying, Scott relates, “HTA must reinvent itself because of the current worldwide problem of overtourism and its negative impact on entire countries and in Hawaii. HTA must quickly shift from marketing to managing the estimated 10 million visitors to our ecologically and culturally fragile islands.”

Hawaii State Auditor
February 2018
Audit of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority
A Report to the Governor and the Legislature of the State of Hawai‘i
Report No. 18-04

“We found that HTA has been operating with loose oversight over its contracts, has not been following its own policies and procedures for procurement, and ultimately, has not been accountable for how it pursues its mission.” Read the complete audit HERE

NOTE: With one exception, the following articles were published locally and internationally on HawaiiNewsOnline.com, a division of eTurboNews.com.

eTurboNews

February 30, 2018
Hawaii News Online
HTA: A SMALL CLUB OF INSIDERS WHO USE THEIR POSITIONS TO KEEP OUTSIDERS OUT
By Scott Foster

Less than a week after a “scathing” State audit was publicly reviewed by a joint House & Senate Tourism Committee Informational Briefing (02/28/2018), a December 8, 2017, “Resolution of Charge” decision by the Hawaii State Ethics Commission came to light. “The settlement included a $12,000 fine against Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) President & CEO George Szigeti; former COO Randy Baldemor (Szigeti’s personal hire), Jadie Goo, HTA Director of marketing for China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and David Uchiyama, the former HTA VP of Brand Management.” By coincidence or not, Baldemor resigned only a few week before the “scathing” audit was released to the public. MORE HERE

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March 1, 2018
Hawaii News Online
LATEST “SCATHING” AUDIT OF THE HAWAII TOURISM AUTHORITY
by Scott Foster

While February 28, 2018 was windy, cold and wet outside of the Hawaii State Capitol, it was “hotter than the hinges of Hell” (and equally as windy) inside during a 2 1/2-hour joint House & Senate Tourism Committee “informational briefing” on the latest “scathing” audit of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA). MORE HERE

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March 18, 2018
Hawaii News Online
UPDATE ON “SCATHING” 2018 HAWAII TOURISM AUTHORITY AUDIT
Two Important Game Changing Bills
Now Moving At State Legislature
By Scott Foster

The latest state audit of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) was released on February 27, 2018, and was followed on February 18th by a “combative” two-and-a half-hour joint House & Senate Informational Briefing on tourism. The latest audit was in many ways, worthy of the old Yogi Berra adage, “It’s déjà vu all over again” – simply because many of the Audit’s conclusions are the same conclusions reached in every pervious audit by previous auditors dating back to at least 2002. All are available on line at the Office of the Auditor, State of Hawai`i. MORE HERE

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April 28, 2018
Hawaii News Online
HAWAII LEGISLATURE SEIZES CONTROL OF TOURISM AUTHORITY BUDGET
By Scott Foster

After many years of “scathing” State audits, on April 27, 2018, the Hawaii State Legislature passed a bill during a conference committee which removes much of the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s (HTA) unfettered autonomy over how to spend its estimated $120 million annual budget. Several important questions remain including:
1) Will Hawaii Governor David Ige sign it?
2) What’s going to happen at the Senate confirmation hearing on Monday, April 30th for several new HTA board members put forth by Governor Ige? A reliable source told eTurboNews that the reconfirmation of at least one sitting board member remains “up in the air. MORE HERE

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April 18, 2018
HAWAII “TOURISM INDUSTRY NEEDS BETTER PLANNING,
NOT BUDGET CUTS
The state needs to invest in marketing that strategically attracts the visitors who contribute to real economic impact.
By Frank Haas

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May 10, 2018
Hawaii News Online
HAWAII TOURISM AUTHORITY BUDGET NEARING LAST VOTE
By Scott Foster

The final version of the bill which would make significant changes to the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s (HTA) budget is one step away from being sent to the governor for his signature. Unlikely, but the bill could still fail during the full Senate floor vote after the changes made during a conference committee last week. Should it pass, Governor David Ige could veto the legislation. The original bill was far more draconian and HTA could have lost a whopping 44 percent of its total budget. MORE HERE

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May, 15, 2018
Hawaii News Online
FATE OF HAWAII TOURISM AUTHORITY BUDGET STILL UNKNOWN
By Scott Foster

After many years of negative State audits, the 2018 audit of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) was described as “scathing” and highlighted specific insider deals, favoritism, non-bid contracts and a glaring lack of board oversight at the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Push finally come to shove with the introduction of companion House and Senate bills with the House version becoming the vehicle. A recent Senate Draft 2 was heard and passed today (Tuesday) by the full Senate and makes severe budget cuts. The Senate amendment will send the legislation to a conference committee which is expected to be contentious. The conference committee will meet “after April 12th and before April 26th.” MORE HERE

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May, 20, 2018
Hawaii News Online
HAWAII TOURISM AUTHORITY ESCAPES “DRACONIAN” BUDGET CUTS; NEW LEADERSHIP APPOINTED
By Scott Foster

On the heels of the latest in a long series of “scathing” state audits of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), HTA Board Chair Rick Fried, a prominent Honolulu attorney, submitted his resignation after Governor David Ige withdrew Fried’s nomination to continue as board chairman of HTA. HTA is the state agency responsible for Hawaii’s tourism marketing. Fried became chair in 2015. MORE HERE

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June 1, 2018
Hawaii News Online
IS THE HAWAII CONVENTION CENTER PROFITABLE?
By Scott Foster

Hawaii’s beautiful State Convention Center was officially dedicated on October 15, 1997, after many years of debate and political intrigue. At the time, I was on Governor Ben Cayetano’s staff helping to advance the project in the midst of a major economic downturn when the location was finally selected and the land purchase took place. MORE HERE

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June 27, 2018
Hawaii News Online
HAWAII TOURISM JOURNALIST PRESENTED REVEALING DATA DURING JUNE HAWAII TOURISM WHOLESALERS ASSOCIATION EVENT
BY SCOTT FOSTER

Honolulu Star-Advertiser Waikiki Bureau Chief Allison Schaefers’ June 13th, 2018, presentation to the Hawaii Tourism Wholesalers Association (HTWA) was entitled, “You’ve got the crumbs, they’ve got the bread: More than 70 percent of daily visitor spending goes to hotels, transportation and food.” MORE HERE

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July 3, 2018
Hawaii News Online
HAWAII TOURISM AUTHORITY WELCOMES NEW APPOINTEES TO ITS BOARD OF DIRECTORS
By Scott Foster

The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) is pleased to welcome four new appointees to serve on its board of directors; David Arakawa, Micah Alameda, Kyoko Kimura and Ben Rafter. MORE HERE

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July, 15, 2018
Hawaii News Online
HAWAII TOURISM AUTHORITY: 3 NEW EXECUTIVES WANTED
By Scott Foster

The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) is actively seeking applicants to be considered for the positions of President and Chief Executive Officer, Chief Administrative Officer, and Vice President of Marketing and Product Development. The Hawaii Tourism Authority is the State of Hawaii agency responsible for managing tourism, and today it initiated the process to identify and appoint executives to fill 3 key leadership positions. MORE HERE

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July, 18, 2018
Hawaii News Online
HAWAII TOURISM AUTHORITY: 3 NEW EXECUTIVES WANTED
By Scott Foster

The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) is actively seeking applicants to be considered for the positions of President and Chief Executive Officer, Chief Administrative Officer, and Vice President of Marketing and Product Development. The Hawaii Tourism Authority is the State of Hawaii agency responsible for managing tourism, and today it initiated the process to identify and appoint executives to fill 3 key leadership positions. MORE HERE

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July, 25, 2018
Hawaii News Online
Rethinking Hawaii Tourism: Realities of the 21st century
By Scott Foster

During a February 2018, Hawai`i State House & Senate hearing delving into the latest highly-critical HTA audit (there have been several such audits), “State Auditor Les Kondo questioned the need for the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s exemption from the state procurement code.” MORE HERE

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