Lihu‘e makes NatGeo list

For Kaua‘i residents, Lihu‘e is where many of us work, shop or catch a movie. But for National Geographic Adventure readers, Lihu‘e’s about to become one of the nation’s great adventure towns.

The Garden Isle’s county seat was the only Hawai‘i destination to make the magazine’s top 50 burgeoning, outdoor-oriented places to live and play, in the September edition currently on newsstands.

National Geographic included Lihu‘e for its wealth of close outdoor options — from the “3,000-foot-deep, jungle-fringed” Waimea Canyon to “heavenly” Kalapaki Beach.

In compiling the annual list, National Geographic Adventure writers looked for innovative towns that are “smart choices for the future,” not just the relocation hot spots of today.

“A change of address can bring instant gratification. But a move is a long-term investment,” states the magazine. “Not only do the selected towns have the action. They’ve also got a plan.”

Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau Executive Director Sue Kanoho said Kaua‘i’s strength as an eco-adventure spot marries well with the magazine’s target audience.

Of course, such high-profile publicity for Kaua‘i — National Geographic Adventure has a readership of 2.4 million — is a brief respite from increasingly negative news about the state’s visitor industry.

Total visitor arrivals to Kaua‘i were down 23.5 percent this June compared to last, according to the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. The statewide picture tells a similar story: a 13.6 percent drop in visitor arrivals by air this June over last.

Both state and county tourism agencies have boosted their marketing efforts in response to the dismal numbers.

This month Hawai‘i Tourism Authority is considering appropriating $6.5 million for marketing and access funds. In May, HTA approved $3 million in emergency funds on marketing, which state Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert said has had a positive effect on stimulating travel.

Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau has also boosted its marketing efforts, targeting travel in the final quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009.

E-mail blasts, which are sent to KVB’s database of 220,000 mostly Mainland consumers, include price-based offers that Kanoho solicits from member businesses. The hope is that deals will encourage visitors who are on the fence about traveling to take the leap. The most recent blast, sent out Aug. 1, contained more offers than any other in the past three years, Kanoho said.

And while the county tourism agency does not market to “best of” lists, Kanoho said the attention means KVB’s overall efforts are working.

“Any kind of publicity with National Geographic, when it’s positive, is a good thing,” she said.

• Blake Jones, business writer/assistant editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or


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