Kauaians working on strategic marketing plan

HANAMA’ULU — The future direction of Kaua’i’s tourism product for the next decade is being shaped this year.

Representatives from SMS, a consulting service that has worked with leaders of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), have already formulated a vision for the state’s Tourism Strategic Plan.

Now they are seeking input from residents of individual counties on a number of vital sectors, including marketing, workforce-development issues, access, communications, Hawaiian culture, safety, and tourism-product development.

SMS officials noted that each island has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, and would benefit from its own county tourism strategic plan, particularly as it applied to sustainability.

As Faith Rex, president of SMS Consulting, put it, “our intention is not to start from ground zero.”

At a meeting at the Radisson Kauai Beach Resort, SMS facilitators and more than three dozen people representing a cross-section of the community brain-stormed for more than two hours to prioritize issues.

“Its very important to take a step further, to look at where we want to go,” said Beth Tokioka, director of the county’s Office of Economic Development and a facilitator for the event.

The final product will be up for county leaders’ approval in June 2006.

Among the key topics broached included how best to develop Kaua’i’s workforce. The island’s and the state’s unemployment rate are well below 3 percent, the lowest in the nation.

Suggestions were made concerning more partnerships between owners and operators of tourism companies and leaders at schools, including middle schools and high schools, to foster an understanding of the industry.

There were also discussions about charging user fees to help mitigate the impact of tourism on the island’s vulnerable infrastructure.

It was suggested that the runway at Lihu’e Airport be extended.

Myles Shibata suggested developing workforce housing. Sandi Kato-Klutke, manager of Aston at Poipu Kai, suggested more involvement of owners and operators of agribusiness and agricultural tourism companies, which are popular on Maui.

Kaua’i Visitors Bureau Executive Director Sue Kanoho brought up the point that all information given on guided tours be accurate.

There was discussion on how best to designate historical sites, as well as devising an airplane video to ready visitors as to what to expect.

There was also talk about Kaua’i’s visitor-plant inventory. SMS representatives pointed out that Kaua’i has more timeshare and vacation-rental properties, proportionately, than other Hawaiian island.

Other topics addressed included the preservation of Hawaiian culture, establishing an information kiosk, perhaps at the airport, and attempting in some way to manage visitor expectations with the inventory available on island.

Tokioka said the process began in June, and a first draft of Kaua’i’s comments and additions to HTA’s framework was due in March.

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