"May Day is Lei Day," including this event in New Zealand, is one of the visitor promotions offered over the years by the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau, which is facing competition in its bid to continue marketing the state to leisure travelers.

Multiple bids for tourism
marketing contract

The Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau has competition for the state's multimillion pact

The Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau has some competition in bidding for a four-year, multimillion-dollar statewide pact to market Hawaii to visitors.

The bureau and another unidentified organization have both submitted proposals for the full tourism marketing contract. In addition, there are separate proposals vying for smaller contracts to promote Hawaii to specific geographic areas of the world. The authority has received six proposals to market Hawaii to Japan, and two proposals to market the islands in Europe, said Frank Haas, tourism marketing director for the authority.

The HTA also received one proposal to market Hawaii specifically to North America, as well as one proposal covering Oceania; two for Asian countries other than Japan; and one proposal to market Hawaii to business travelers.

Tony Vericella, president and chief executive of the visitors bureau, said the organization submitted a bid yesterday for the full contract. He declined to provide details. The bureau has island chapters that receive 30 percent of the bureau's funds to promote the individual islands. Under terms of the bid, the winner would be required to work with those chapters, but it was not clear if that requirement would stand if the bureau does not win the bid.

The authority declined to disclose the names of bidders. Haas said he wasn't sure whether the names would be made public before the authority makes a final decision.

This week, an HTA committee will screen the proposals down to a "short list." Oral presentations are slated to occur the week of May 19, and the authority's board, or a committee of the board, will make a final decision by June 27. The deadlines may be changed, depending on when board members are available.

The Hawaii visitors bureau has always marketed the state's visitor industry, and it wasn't until 1999 that the contract was opened to competition. Only one company, Dentsu Inc. of Japan, submitted a competing bid four years ago, but was disqualified early in the process because its bid was incomplete.

This year, the bureau's contract to market Hawaii to tourists is $33.2 million. The value of the new contract, which runs from 2004 to 2007, is not yet clear, since the authority may consider breaking up the contract by geographic area.

The authority had its annual budget reduced this year to $56 million from $61 million, but the agency is poised to get the money back and then some through an $8 million state appropriation that is headed to final voting at the Legislature.

The legislation would allow the tourism authority to spend the money to combat any negative effects on tourism because of world conflicts, terrorist threats or SARS. The agency can also use the money to reduce its debt.

Hawaii Tourism Authority

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