Tuesday, April 6, 1999

Hawaii Convention Center.

HTA wants to
double convention

The new director says varied
expenses will cut into
his $180,000 salary

By Russ Lynch


The Hawaii Tourism Authority, pushing ahead with its task of reawakening the state's stagnant tourism business, has asked the Hawaii Convention Center to nearly double its bookings and agreed to pay the HTA's new executive director almost twice the salary the governor gets.

The authority has signed a three-year contract to pay Robert Fishman, the former city managing director, about $180,000 a year. Gov. Ben Cayetano gets about $95,000.

But Fishman said today it's not as simple as that. Since he is an independent contractor, he has to pay his own excise tax, workers compensation insurance premiums, costs of keeping an office and other expenses, including providing his own car.

"It's meant to emulate what I had at Hawaiian Air," Fishman said today. Fishman left the post of vice president of airport services at Hawaiian Airlines Inc., where he was paid $150,000 a year, to join the HTA.

One of his regrets, Fishman said, is that the new contract does not include retirement benefits.

He said he has put in enough time as a government employee to be vested in the state-county retirement plan but the new contract does not include payments to the plan.

Meanwhile, facing the possibility that the Legislature might make it responsible for the loans that financed the $350 million Hawaii Convention Center, the HTA is pushing for more bookings.

John Reed, HTA chairman, told legislators yesterday that the authority has asked the Convention Center Authority and the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau to push harder. Conventions that are expected to bring 75,000 people to Hawaii have been booked for next year.

Reed said today that the new goals call for steadily increasing convention attendance so that the number of conventioneers averages 150,000 a year over the next six years.

Clearly, the center's performance is not what it was expected to be, he said.

The center, which opened last June, hosted 20 major events last year, bringing in about 36,000 people. So far, nine events are booked for this year, bringing in about 50,000 people. The biggest is 30,000 visitors for the American Dental Association convention in October.

There are 12 events booked for 2000, for a total of about 80,000 people, including the the Lions Clubs International convention of 30,000 in June.

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