The Hawaii Tourism Authority has started the process to identify and appoint executives to fill three key leadership positions.
HTA is looking for applicants to be considered for the positions of president and chief executive officer, chief administrative officer, and vice president of marketing and product development.
We certainly hope they find and hire the best people who can give HTA some new direction, with new outlook, perhaps new emphasis. The reason being is simple. HTA, the state, does not need to be spending $80 million a year marketing Hawaii. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Hawaii does not need to send people to trade shows, send out fliers, and basically do a bunch of unnecessary promotion. Hawaii, in case anyone doesn’t already know, has an abundance of tourists. There is no shortage of tourists here despite April’s epic rainfall that led to flooding that devastated the North Shore and parts of Koloa. People are still coming here in record numbers and they will continue to come here, regardless of what HTA does.
Yes, we are perfectly aware our economy is driven by tourism, so we know we need folks to visit here and spend money. But as everyone also knows, there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing. Kauai long ago reached, and passed, the point of too many guests here. The result is, our guests are not having the experience they could be having because roads and beaches are just too crowded. And residents are becoming more annoyed — and some are becoming angered — by too many cars on the roads, too many people at the beaches and too many helicopters soaring overhead on a daily basis.
Balance is what HTA should be looking for. Let’s not continue to pour millions into marketing. We’re guessing we could stop promoting Kauai on the mainland completely for the rest of this year and we would see very little, if any, difference in our visitor count. By now, people are well aware that Hawaii has beaches and sunshine and snorkeling and surfing and other outdoors activities we all know and love. We doubt folks on the mainland pondering where to go for their next vacation need a flier in the mail to remind them Hawaii is still here.
HTA, while certainly doing an admirable job and doing the job for which they are paid to do, made some missteps earlier this year. It sent out press releases, and even recruited Gov. David Ige to chime in — pointing out that while the North Shore of Kauai was damaged by the flooding, the rest of the island was fine. And it insisted on sending out press releases pointing out that while some areas of Hawaii Island were being destroyed by lava from its Kilauea volcano, the rest of the island was good to go. It came across as a bit cold that while homes and businesses were lost to these natural disasters, and people were suffering, HTA seemed focused on economics.
We encouraged HTA to back off the marketing and let the islands and the people recover, let them have some space and breathing room. The islands are filled with resilient residents who will recover if we will do what we can to help and let them have some time and space to grieve.
We are not calling on HTA to stop marketing Hawaii, though we think they could greatly reduce their spending. We are saying, let’s cut back, let’s find the balance between tourism and maintaining Kauai’s laid-back lifestyle and scenic beauty. Let’s make this work for our visitors and the people who call Kauai home.
That said, a complete job description for each position HTA is looking to fill, including responsibilities and qualifications, is available for review online at HTA’s website at bit.ly/2n4QqxP.
Applications are being accepted and reviewed by Inkinen &Associates, a Honolulu-based executive search and consulting firm, that was retained by HTA through a request for quotation bid process to support the filling of each position. Three sub-committees, led by selected members of HTA’s Board of Directors, have been appointed to review the applicants who are deemed as viable, qualified candidates to be considered as finalists for each position.
Interested applicants for each position should submit their resume with cover letter and salary requirements to Inkinen &Associates via email at Executives@inkinen.com by Aug. 24.
We hope the person who becomes HTA’s next president and CEO can achieve that balance of tourism promotion, and protecting what makes Hawaii special.