Who will be awarded the Hawaii Tourism Authority's (HTA) destination management and marketing contract for the U.S. market is still an unanswered question, after an outgoing tourism official on Monday rescinded the awarding of the multimillion-dollar contract to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA).
Now the procurement process must start over, according to Mike McCartney, the now-former director department of business, economic development and tourism, who canceled the current contracting process moments before his term in office came to a close.
In June, the HTA awarded the destination management contract to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, but the move was protested by the HTA's longtime partner, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB). This led to McCartney's review as required by law.
The CNHA is protesting the cancellation.
State tourism official calls for two contracts
McCartney's justification for canceling the process is that two separate contracts should be awarded, and in order to do so, the process must be redone.
"Given the emerging and erratic market coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is not expected to be in full recovery until 2025, and the evolving needs of the community, it is clear to us that to address the needs of the current market more effectively, it is no longer in the best interest of the state and people of Hawaii to enter into one single RFP," McCartney wrote in a Dec. 5 letter to the CNHA's and the HVCB's respective CEOs. "We must have two contracts: one for marketing communications and travel trade and one for destination brand management, communication, education and community-based economic development."
The HTA says it will discuss the rescission with the board, new Gov. Josh Green and the new department of business, economic development and tourism director and "to explore viable options and align our direction going forward."