HTA brings back programs amid $17M in budget cuts
POSTED: Thursday, January 22, 2009
Despite a $17 million reduction in the budget, Hawaiian music will play on at state airports this year, greeting visitors as they arrive and serenading them as they depart.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority board approved an additional $1.4 million in funds for the following programs:
» Airport greeting programs, $450,000
» Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association, $75,000
» Revise strategic plan, $48,000
» Resident sentiment survey, $50,000
» Visitor assistance program, $40,000
» Safety and security plan, $50,000
» Tourism product development, $225,000
» Work-force development, $50,000
>» To be determined, $425,000
Source: Hawaii Tourism Authority
The Hawaii Tourism Authority board yesterday approved $450,000 to enhance the arrival and departure experience at airports. The amount approved, however, is half of what was originally recommended by HTA staff, and is expected to last only six months.
Other funds, including $200,000, went to the Waikiki Revitalization Program, which will help keep the Kuhio hula mound shows and torch lighting ceremonies going in Waikiki, as well as the popular Sunset on the Beach, which offers free weekend movies on an outdoor 30-foot screen.
Rick Egged, president of the Waikiki Improvement Association which manages the programs, said the hula performances in January were reduced to only three instead of the usual six times per week when funding was cut last month.
Now, he may be able to increase the number of performances per week.
The performances bring the authentic Hawaiian culture to life, he said, featuring a broad cross-section of styles and halau within the hula community.
Sunset on the Beach, which also benefits from sponsorship by Tesoro Hawaii, may be able to offer seven movies this year instead of six.
While the program received $380,000 in 2008, he's grateful for the $200,000 allotted this year.
The Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association, a nonprofit linking cultural groups to the businesses within the visitor industry, received $75,000 to help continue running its operations this year, regaining a portion of cuts in December. The group's total will be $325,000 for the year, $75,000 less than originally anticipated.
Other funds went back to visitor assistance programs, a revision of the Hawaii Tourism Strategic plan, and training of airport workers in Hawaiian hospitality.
The HTA board yesterday approved the items in its budget amounting to $988,000, while remaining undecided about the remaining $425,000 available.
A total of $1.4 million in funds became available due to canceled golf tournaments as well as money moved out of marketing.
At the same time, the board also approved a reduction of its fiscal year 2009 budget to $71 million from $88 million as recommended by its budget committee on Tuesday.
Discussion regarding a scathing state audit, which alleged that the HTA fails to have a clear plan while mismanaging contracts, was nixed from the agenda due to lack of time. The HTA board spent well over an hour in executive session discussing an extension of the National Football League Pro Bowl game contract. The Pro Bowl is heading to Miami in 2010 after 30 years in Hawaii.
Board approval of $607,000 for marketing initiatives in Korea, discussed since December, was short of one vote yesterday.
Board members supporting the initiatives said it was important for Hawaii to position itself in this potential market because of the visa waiver and Korean Airlines' commitment to add larger aircraft to its Hawaii route.
Board member Douglas Chang said he opposed the approval simply because he did not receive enough information about the initiative.
"In this day, $600,000 is a lot of money and I wanted to make sure I had a full opportunity to review it," he said.
In other matters, the search for a new chief executive to replace former CEO Rex Johnson is well under way.
Jim Carra, executive vice president of SearchWide, told the board he expects interviews by the selection committee to begin in mid-February, followed by a full board interview of finalists at the end of February.
"It's on target," said Carra. "Interest is strong in what the opportunity presents."
Candidates run the entire gamut, he said, and are applying from Hawaii as well as worldwide.