Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau


deal gets nod

The joint marketing effort for
"Lilo & Stitch" still may undergo
a further state review

By Tim Ruel

The Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau has been given a green light to proceed with its joint marketing venture involving Disney's "Lilo & Stitch," though the controversial plan could be subject to state review later this year.

Some state officials had questioned whether the bureau needed approval from the Hawaii Tourism Authority to proceed with the contract, which could cost up to $1.7 million this year in state funds. The bureau markets Hawaii on a $45 million-a-year contract with the HTA and needs approval for any changes to its budget that exceed $500,000.

HVCB Chief Executive Tony Vericella has argued that the bureau doesn't need approval for the "Lilo & Stitch" promotion because the funding will cover all of the different tourism markets around the world that visit Hawaii. If you divide the $1.7 million in funding between all the markets, the bureau argues, then the funding for each market is less than $500,000. The HTA's board yesterday sided with that assessment, following a two-hour executive session with members of the HVCB.

Specific benefits of the Disney contract will be inserted into the bureau's strategic plan, and will be presented to incoming board members, who will hold their first meeting in July, said Frank Haas, consultant to the HTA. At that point, the board would have another chance to decide whether to approve the funding.

The authority's board is essentially looking for a way to justify a good program while having oversight, Haas said, and Hawaii stands to gain as a visitor destination by partnering with "Lilo & Stitch." Disney-owned ABC will run an hour-long telecast of the film opening Friday, with footage of the islands, and the DVD release will have tourism-friendly images of Hawaii.

"What we're doing is to provide a better rationale of 'Lilo & Stitch' within the 2002 annual tourism marketing plan to make sure we have all the rationale and accountability," Haas said.

Even if the HVCB is within the letter of the law with the agreement, Haas said he still thinks that big tourism marketing contracts should receive public scrutiny from the authority. The "Lilo & Stitch" program may be a good investment for Hawaii, but the process of reaching contracts is just as important as the substance of the agreements, Haas said.

Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau

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