By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Diane Quitiquit of the Hawaii Tourism Authority
listens to fellow board members speak yesterday
shortly after being promoted from her
vice chairwoman post.
its full speed ahead
Former second-in-commandBy Russ Lynch
Diane Quitiquit is a unanimous
pick to take over for John Reed
The Hawaii Tourism Authority is almost through its groundwork and Diane Quitiquit said she is ready to lead it through the implementation stage, as the HTA boosts its tourism promotion and development spending closer to $60 million a year.
"We've sort of evolved from a caterpillar to the butterfly stage," Quitiquit said after an HTA board meeting yesterday where she was unanimously elected chairwoman.
The HTA is a panel of volunteers from business, government and the community, established by the 1998 Legislature, which also created what the tourist industry has always wanted, a dedicated, reliable source of funding to market Hawaii as a destination.
The HTA gets a direct share of the transient accommodations tax and is contracting with such organizations as the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau to do the actual work.
Quitiquit replaces the HTA's first chairman, former DFS Group Ltd. executive John Reed, who headed the board from its formation in October. Quitiquit, County of Hawaii director of research and development, was appointed to the HTA to represent the Big Island and has served on the HTA tourism goals and events marketing committees.
She said in an interview that the HTA board, meeting almost every week since its formation, often for long hours, completed much of the groundwork under Reed's leadership. It now has a full-time paid chief executive, former city Managing Director Robert Fishman, to direct the actual carrying out of its decisions and policies.
"I'll be working closely with Bob on the implementation," Quitiquit said. The HTA has almost completed a strategic plan for the long-term development of tourism.
Quitiquit, who was Reed's vice chairwoman from the start, said she took that post "knowing that at some point it would evolve into a chairmanship." During yesterday's meeting, right after her election, Quitiquit said Reed "really set the framework and the momentum" through the first eight months of the HTA's life and now it's time for implementation.
Next month, the HTA will go out with what Quitiquit calls a "traveling road show," beginning on the neighbor islands, to explain to the public just what it has been doing and to seek community input on the role of tourism in each area.
One of the steps that the HTA must take as the year goes ahead is to define the role of the HVCB, which before the HTA came into being was the state's tourism marketing arm, a private nonprofit business funded primarily by state money that it had to plead for in the Legislature each year.
The HTA has continued that funding and gave the HVCB a contract to continue marketing tourism in general and the Hawaii Convention Center. However that contract runs out at the end of this calendar year.
Meanwhile, the HTA has approved funding for 58 separate cultural and sports events, agreeing to spend millions of dollars on those most likely to attract tourists. The implementation of that phase has begun with the writing and awarding of formal contracts.
The HTA yesterday named as its vice chairman David Carey, chief executive of Outrigger Enterprises Inc., parent of Outrigger Hotels & Resorts. Carey has headed the HTA's situation analysis committee, charged with finding ways to monitor how Hawaii's tourism efforts are doing in comparison with those of competing destinations.
Carey has also served on the HTA budget and strategic plan committees and the accountability committee, whose job is to follow all the Hawaii marketing dollars and decide whether the spending has been effective.
Quitiquit also has a tourism industry background. She worked in hotel management for Amfac Inc. and she has also had personal business experience as co-owner of a Kona office complex. When she was appointed to the county job in 1992, Yamashiro moved what was traditionally a Hilo post to Kona, where tourism, aquaculture and energy projects have led Big Island development.
In other business at yesterday's meeting, state economist Pearl Imada Iboshi told the HTA that new methods of counting visitor arrivals will begin in January because eastbound arrivals have been "grossly understating" the number of travelers from Asia-Pacific areas who are Hawaii residents and not tourists.
That means the decline in Asia-Pacific tourists could be even worse than was believed. Now the state will work directly with immigration officials to get a real count, she said.
What: Chairwoman, Hawaii Tourism Authority, a voluntary but time-consuming post helping to lead the development and marketing of Hawaii tourism.
Who: Diane Quitiquit.
Occupation: Director of Research and Development, County of Hawaii.
Background: Quitiquit was an executive office building co-owner and operator in Kona before taking the county job.
Comment about the HTA: "We've sort of evolved from a caterpillar to the butterfly stage."