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06-28-21 | News

Legislature in Hawaii Seeks to Stop Funding the State's Largest Tourism Agency

The Agency Shifted to Focus on Environmental Concerns

The Hawaii Tourism Authority is facing funding cuts under House Bill 862, after a yearlong travel pause due to the pandemic. HTA was designed to market travel to the world, however, with travel paused the agency shifted focus to environmental conservation.

As the world's most secluded and largest island chain, Hawaii had become overrun by tourists in 2019 but as the pandemic hit, The Hawaiian Tourism Authority (HTA) began to brainstorm a way to best use this low traffic time.

HTA has been around since 1998 to market the state's impeccable travel industry to the world, is facing a stop to their state funding. House Bill 862 would strip the agency of funds by the 2023 fiscal year. During the pandemic, they shifted their focus to the environment.

HTA leader, John De Fries, is the first native Hawaiian leader, believed that the pandemic was the perfect moment to bring Hawaii up to date with native wisdom and modern technology. De Fries devoted HTA resources to promoting the state sustainability goal which was more important than marketing travel during the pandemic.

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Regenerative tourism builds tourism that is environmentally safe, culturally friendly, and has less impact than traditional travel.

Hawaii is the first state to declare a climate emergency and has worked to be environmentally conscious. Currently the state is starting practices such as banning single-use plastic as of 2022, developing hotels such as the Grand Hyatt Kaui Resort and Spa for its appreciation of the climate and culture through open courtyards, The Laylow, Autograph Collection on Honolulu partners with HTA to plant new trees, and The Soul Community Planet Hotel in Hilo that does not use any single-use plastic, beach cleanup, and added awareness through various programs.

On July 1, $12 million will be back with the state while the resources will not go to the community. However, before the deadline, HTA is trying to spend the funds.

With HTA losing funding, locals want to focus on the environment and utilizing this shift from large crowds of tourists to Hawaii's natural beauty.

https://www.westhawaiitoday.com/2021/05/31/hawaii-news/hta-rushes-to-keep-from-losing-18m-in-special-funds/

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jun/07/hawaii-bill-seeks-to-cut-funding-protect-environment

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