The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means on April 4, 2023.
April 4, 2023
Conference Room 211 and via videoconference
To: Senate Committee on Ways and Means
Sen. Donovan M. Dela Cruz, Chair
Sen. Gilbert S.C. Keith-Agaran, Vice Chair
From: Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
Joe Kent, Executive Vice President
RE: HB1375 HD3 SD1 — RELATING TO TOURISM
Dear Chair and Committee Members:
The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offer comments on HB1375 HD3 SD1, which would dissolve the Hawaii Tourism Authority and replace it with an Office of Tourism and Destination Management.
The language of this bill expresses obvious disappointment with the management and practices of the HTA. Thus it is understandable that the bill seeks to replace that agency with one that hypothetically would carry out the same mission in a more effective way.
However, it is unclear how this new agency would be anything other than enhanced version of the same agency.
While one can discuss how “destination management” will focus on “regenerative tourism” and about what this will mean for future generations, the nuts and bolts of this bill present us with a government agency tasked with promoting tourism, marketing Hawaii as a destination, promoting events, overseeing the convention center and strategic research.
It is unclear how this is a significant change from the HTA. Despite the good intentions behind the bill, it still begins with the assumption that the state requires a government-funded tourism promotion agency. As such, the creation of a destination-management agency will frustrate efforts to engage with the question of the proper role of the government in the visitor industry while failing to achieve any significant change.
The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii is on record as opposing the use of taxpayer funds to support the visitor industry, which is well able to pay for its own promotion.
Renaming the agency that oversees tourism promotion would not change the fact that the state and Hawaii’s counties should get out of the tourism business.
Whether we call it destination management or the HTA, tourism is too important to Hawaii for it to be entrusted to a government agency.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify.
Executive vice president
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii