By HUNTER BISHOP
Tribune-Herald staff writer
“Authentic and unique” events for visitors to the County of Hawaii are getting a boost from the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
Eighteen organizations in the County are receiving grants under HTA’s County Product Enrichment Program for 2013 to continue providing positive experiences for visitors and provide greater diversity for the state’s tourism profile on Hawaii Island.
HTA’s state-funded CPEP program provides the County of Hawaii with a $400,000 grant to make the awards and pay administrative expenses. HTA has similar partnerships with the City and County of Honolulu, and the counties of Maui and Kauai.
Statewide, 98 events and programs receive funding though CPEP for 2013, and funding for the grants throughout the state totaled $1.6 million, said Julie Kaneko of Stryker Weiner & Yokota, a Honolulu firm handling public relations for the program.
CPEP was created in 2002 as a partnership between the HTA and the counties to strengthen and diversify Hawaii’s tourism product and provide a quality visitor experience. The four counties receive HTA funding and other resources for niche areas of agritourism, cultural tourism, ecotourism, edutourism, health and wellness tourism, sports, and technotourism in their respective counties.
Stephanie Donoho, tourism specialist for the county Department of Research and Development, said 37 applicants competed for the $329,000 that was available, and that her office reviewed and selected the 18 recipients who were awarded contracts. The Big Island Visitors Bureau is also a partner in the process. The county is allowed to keep $75,000 for administrative costs but Donoho said only $71,000 was used for salaries, training and workshops, primarily to insure that applicants understand what they are getting into and what is expected of them.
Hawaii Island events receiving funding this year include the several new events, including the first commercial business on the island to receive an award.
This is the first year that commercial businesses have been permitted to participate in the 10-year-old program, Donoho said. Hawaii Sport Events LLC, the first for-profit business to receive a CPEP grant, was awarded an $8,000 contract to help sponsor the “Kona Swim Classic,” a new event to be held a week before the Ironman Triathlon in hopes that Triathlon participants will extend their visits in Kona, Donoho said.
For-profit businesses may still be “trying to wrap their heads around” the concept, Donoho said, since they are not as accustomed to the “tracking and accountability” involved in administering government grants as many existing non-profits are.
The non-profit Kalani Honua Inc. a Puna retreat, was awarded two contracts and was only agency receiving more than one. Kalani Honua will stage the Puna Music Festival in May, and will host the first Hawaii Yoga Festival in November.
“I’m really excited about some of these new, emerging events,” Donoho said.
Karen Moore, executive director of the Palace Theatre, said the non-profit Friends of the Palace Theater in Hilo has received the CPEP grant several times. “It helps to fund our Hawaiian music events,” she said, including “Hawaiiana Live,” a weekly, live, one-hour show for visitors presented by Leilehua Yuen.” The grant of $20,000 is “fantastic,” she said. “Hugely important. We couldn’t do without it. We’re very grateful.”
Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the HTA, said in a media release on Tuesday that, “As part of our marketing efforts to perpetuate and promote authentic and unique experiences on Hawaii Island, the HTA has selected CPEP events that reflect the distinction of each island and what makes it a one-of-a-kind destination.
“Our partnership with the County of Hawaii has allowed us to showcase year-round experiences exclusive to Hawaii Island, that highlight our people, place and culture for both residents and visitors to enjoy.”
HTA is a state agency established by law in 1998 to ensure a successful visitor industry and tourism economy in the state of Hawaii. For more information, visit www.hawaiitourismauthority.org.
Email Hunter Bishop at email@example.com