Travel Weekly's Hawaii E-Letter: July 7, 2003

THE HAWAII STATE AUDITOR charged the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau and the Hawaii Tourism Authority -- which gives the HVCB some $151.7 million in state contracts -- with mismanagement -- and worse. An audit released last week alleged that the HVCB misused funds, conducted evaluations of subcontractors informally -- or not at all -- and was guilty of conflicts of interest. "We also found that the Authority's lax monitoring and enforcement of its contracts with HVCB left little assurance that $151.7 million in state funds were effectively spent," said state auditor Marion Higa. HTA president and CEO Rex Johnson responded: "The auditor cited several examples which indicated serious abuse of state funds and policies, and we will be taking immediate action beginning with an internal investigation. If our investigation confirms the findings of the audit, we will do whatever is necessary to hold HVCB accountable and require comprehensive corrective measures." The HVCB said it will have a formal response to the findings next week.

ALOHA AIRLINES will add more than 100 interisland flights during the summer in response to increased demand. The decision makes multiple-island vacations -- less popular now with the rise in nonstop flights to neighbor islands -- a more viable possibility this season. From July 2 to Aug. 20, the carrier will operate 823 weekly flights. Additional service will be offered between Honolulu and Lihue on Kauai, Kahului on Maui and Kona on the Big Island.

TERRYL VENCL, executive director of the Maui Hotel Assn., will become the new executive director of the Maui Visitors Bureau, effective July 15. Vencl replaces Marsha Wienert, who last week started her post as the state's first tourism liaison and a member of Gov. Linda Jingle's cabinet. Vencl will be a strategic leader and liaison between other visitor industry and government groups. A second person will serve as director of marketing, a position the bureau hopes to fill by Sept. 1.

WORRY-FREE VACATIONS will add a weekly nonstop flight from Las Vegas to Honolulu on Boeing 757s beginning Wednesday, Sept. 17, expanding its service to five days per week. Worry-Free serves Hawaii from seven cities through a same-day connection in Las Vegas. Air and four-night hotel packages from Las Vegas to Hawaii start at $433.99. To book, visit www.worryfreevacationsagent.com.

HERMES opened a 4,450 square-foot store in Ala Moana last month, featuring small leather goods, enamel, perfumes, watches, jewelry and clothing. For the opening, Hermes reprinted a limited edition of the Aloha scarf personalized with "Ala Moana 2003." For information, call (808) 922-5780.

THE NUMBER OF VISITORS coming to Hawaii in May dropped 7.4% compared with the same month last year, and it was largely the result of perpetually sluggish international arrivals, according to a report from the state Dept. of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. On a brighter note, visitors are staying a bit longer; the number of days spent in Hawaii rose 0.1%. Consistent with recent trends, domestic arrivals grew 1.7% over year-ago levels, while international arrivals decreased 28.6% compared with May 2002. Maui and Molokai enjoyed increases in visitor arrivals, while numbers for Lanai, Oahu, and Kauai fell. Preliminary hotel-occupancy totals showed it dipped to 64.7% compared with 66% in May 2002, while average daily room rates rose to $135.46, up from $131.96 in the same period last year, according to a survey conducted by Hospitality Advisors. Seven cruise ships toured the Islands in May. They carried 28,144 passengers, 11.9% more than last year.

PLEASANT HOLIDAYS will buy Livermore, Calif.-headquartered Hawaii World, which specializes in luxury vacations to Hawaii. The purchase price was undisclosed. Hawaii World will retain all of its employees.

RATES & DATES
* America West Vacations and Aston Hotels & Resorts are offering five-night, air-inclusive packages to Oahu starting at $469, including airport transfers, from Los Angeles. Families can save even more with Aston's Kids Stay, Eat and Play Free program. Packages must be booked by Aug. 31, with travel completed by Dec. 23. For details call (800) 356-6611 or log onto www.americawestvacations.com.

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