InsightHawaii Tourism Authority executives will now be able to discuss state marketing strategies behind closed doors, thanks to a bill signed into law by state Gov. Linda Lingle this month.

According to David Uchiyama, HTA vice president of brand management, the new law will help the state agency maximize the impact of the millions of taxpayer dollars it spends annually to market Hawaii as a destination.

"I think the best way for me to describe it is like I'm a football coach standing on one sideline," Uchiyama said of holding marketing strategy sessions before the public. "Having to do everything in public is almost like sending my plays over to the other team so that they know how to defend against me."

Uchiyama said HTA officials started seeing increased marketing efforts by their competitors during a handful of city- and region-focused, month-long Hawaii marketing blitzes held on the West Coast last year. HTA officials felt the increased advertising presence, primarily from Mexico, in the same cities wasn't a coincidence and might have curbed the effectiveness of the Hawaii blitzes.

"We are a state going against countries, which have substantially more resources than we do," Uchiyama said. "The only advantage we really have is to strategically, tactically get into the markets without [our competitors] being able to put up substantial defense against us."

Asked about concerns raised by opponents of the new law regarding potential misuse of the behind-closed-door allowances, Uchiyama insisted such fears were unfounded.

"People need to keep in mind that we have very stringent guidelines and are audited by the state on a regular basis," he continued. "This is purely a strategic measure. Following the example I gave you earlier, after the game is over we'd be happy to open our books and you can look at everything.

"But we just want to be able to go in there against our opponents without them knowing our every move, so that we can position Hawaii in the best way possible to make the biggest impact to the market."

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