State lawmakers voted on Tuesday to override Gov. David Ige’s veto of House Bill 862, which would take visitor lodging taxes from the counties and change the way the Hawaii Tourism Authority is funded, a move that Ige worried would “severely damage” the agency’s ability to pivot from marketing to destination management.
Keith-Agaran and Sen. Bennette Misalucha of Oahu spoke in strong support of the bill during the legislative session on Tuesday afternoon because it would push for HTA to be more accountable and better manage tourism for residents.
Misalucha noted that the islands need to be managed in “appropriate ways using effective tools and that the funds dedicated towards its purposes are used wisely and effectively.”
As vice chair of the Energy, Economic Development and Tourism Committee, she said she witnessed the importance of the visitor industry as a crucial economic driver for the state.
However, during meetings with HTA amid the pandemic, Misalucha found that “data was not provided despite repeated requests” and that management decisions “were slow amidst a crisis.”
Misalucha said that HTA must convince the Legislature each year that “it is deserving of this economy.” Both she and Keith-Agaran agreed that HTA also needs to be more forthcoming with its strategic plans and communicate more with the Legislature.