State audit: HTA lacks strategy to expand tourism


A recently released state audit criticizes the Hawaii Tourism Authority, saying the organization lacks a long-term strategy that would expand the state's tourism industry.

According to the audit, the HTA is at the mercy of its contractors, who set their own goals and establish the methods by which they're measured.

State auditor Marion Higa said that by choosing to map out their strategy and appropriate funds on a year-to-year basis, HTA officials have returned to the approach of tourism promotion that it was created to replace.

The audit on the HTA and its major contractors -- the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, Hawaii Tourism Japan and SMG, which markets the Hawaii Convention Center -- is done every five years by law.

Since the last audit, the HTA has spent about $270 million in state funds, or 90% of its marketing funds, to attract visitors from North America and Japan. Higa said the HTA has failed to define its own strategies and account for its efforts.

The HTA reportedly is developing an operational plan to address the audit's findings and recommendations and intends to "also explore the need to develop a longer-range plan of its own which would also be aligned" with the Hawaii Tourism Strategic Plan.


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