Thursday, June 17, 1999

HTA mulls
proposals for $3
million in grants

Ecotourism and edutourism
are in line to receive more
than half of the funding

By Russ Lynch


The Hawaii Tourism Authority will vote next week on proposals for $3 million in grants to support tourism industry "product development" -- investments in places and projects that will create a more diversified visitor experience.

The HTA yesterday received committee recommendations for 55 such grants, screened from nearly 200 ideas that were submitted in response to a request for proposals.

The 55 grant proposals include 29, for a total of $1.6 million in funding, in the biggest category, ecotourism and edutourism. They include the improvement of walks and destinations that give tourists a close look at the ecology of Hawaii and its native plants and birds.

Those proposals include $180,000 for the Destination Hilo project of Hawaii EdVenture, a cultural education program developed by the University of Hawaii that puts Big Island visitors in contact with native Hawaiian elders.

Another $150,000 would go toward what the intended recipient, the Native Hawaiian Tourism Association, calls the "re-enchantment" of Waikiki.

A separate category, attracting business to Hawaii, would get $630,000 in HTA funding for events such as film and music festivals and food and wine gatherings.

A total of $481,000 is proposed for "technotourism," attracting visitors who are involved in science and high technology. Most of that money would go to neighbor island economic development boards.

The last category calls for spending $200,000 on marketing Hawaii as a place to make films.

The HTA earlier approved $1 million for sports events and $650,000 for cultural programs.

Some members at yesterday's HTA meeting at Honolulu Airport expressed concern about what might happen if Gov. Ben Cayetano vetoes a bill that would extend the life of the Convention Center Authority for another year.

If the governor vetoes the bill, the HTA could become responsible for the operating losses of the convention center, a cost of approximately $4 million a year, members said.

Cayetano has not said what he will do with the bill. He has until next Thursday to sign the bill, let it pass without his signature or veto it.

Bills that did not make it through the Legislature would have merged the CCA into the HTA, hand responsibility for the center's debt service over to the HTA but also add the center's share of hotel room tax income to the HTA's funding.

Instead, legislators voted to extend the CCA for a year beyond the end of this month, its planned sunset date, to give them time for more study.

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