Vericella: Authority Should Use HVCB for Marketing

HONOLULU--The Hawaii Tourism Authority, an 11-member volunteer unit mandated by the state legislature, should continue to use the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau as its sole marketing contractor, the head of the HVCB said.

In a speech at the bureau's annual membership meeting, Tony Vericella, bureau president and chief executive officer, said the proposed authority should not parcel out marketing contracts to more than one vendor, even though it will be allowed to do so.

As reported, new legislation more than doubled state tourism funding to between $55 million and $60 million a year using an increase in hotel room taxes as a dedicated source of funding.

Vericella said the additional money will allow Hawaii to compete on a global level for the first time. He noted that the new authority could contract its marketing programs to as many organizations as it wants.

However, "if it does that, marketing will be fragmented and it will be a backward step," he told 1,200 people attending the meeting at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. "There needs to be one marketing organization," he added.

The HVCB and the industry have long pushed for a dedicated source of funding that would eliminate the need for lobbying for money each year. The bureau--a nonprofit, private group--has been contracted by the state to promote tourism since statehood in 1959.

So far, there has been no move by other organizations to take on some of the role of the HVCB, but the new system poses many questions. The authority's volunteer members--60% of whom must have tourism experience--will be chosen by the governor.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority and increased funding will come into effect during a transition period. The hotel room tax will increase from 6% to 7.25% on Jan. 1, with about a third of the money collected going to the tourism authority.

The HVCB will continue to conduct marketing for the state through June 30--later if the authority decides. It will receive $25 million in state funding for fiscal year 1998-99, which began on July 1, the same amount as in 1997-98.

However, the HVCB estimates it will get additional monies from the room tax during the second half of the fiscal year 1998-99, bringing its total state funding to between $36 million and $39 million.

The tourism authority, with an executive director and staff, will assume many functions of the state tourism office, which has a handful of employees and is part of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Also, responsibility for arrival statistics, now undertaken by the HVCB, will go to the authority.

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