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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 25, 2002

Visitors bureau, authority to enter contract talks

By Katherine Nichols
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Hawai'i Visitors & Convention Bureau is a step closer to getting at least one more year to carry the banner as the state's main tourism marketing company.

The Hawai'i Tourism Authority, which controls state spending on tourism marketing, agreed yesterday to enter negotiations with the bureau, a nonprofit organization, for a new one-year contract to market leisure travel to the state. The contract would replace a $37 million contract that is set to expire Dec. 31.

The tourism authority, stung earlier this year by a state audit that claimed it failed to adequately account for how it spent tax dollars, wants the bureau to set measurable goals, said Frank Haas, the authority's marketing consultant.

"We do have some further changes we want to make in 2003 and beyond," said Haas. "And those mostly relate to accountability."

Under the revised terms, the bureau would be required to submit an "acceptable" marketing plan by Oct. 1. It would also work with the authority to develop clear measurements to determine the effectiveness of its programs.

When authority board member Sharon Weiner asked what would happen if the bureau did not reach its performance goals, Haas answered: "The remedy is to review their performance and change the terms of the contract, or consider a different contractor."

Tony Vericella, the bureau's president and chief executive officer, said the contract makes sense because it allows the bureau to continue its work and lets the authority create a process giving other potential marketers plenty of time to bid for the bureau's job before the contract ends.

Additional terms to be negotiated include the value of the contract, which will be reduced in light of Gov. Ben Cayetano's $5 million cut to the authority's budget, said Haas.