Integrated effort needed to boost tourism

I’ve just returned from a week on O‘ahu attending Hawai‘i Tourism Authority’s annual tourism conference and meeting with some of the state’s key stakeholders regarding the economic downturn and its impact to our islands. While we all are hopeful this will be a short dip, we are preparing for the possibility it may run through 2009.

Almost daily I’ve been asked, “What are you guys doing to address the downturn in tourism?”

First, it’s important to point out that HTA, the Hawai‘i Visitors & Convention Bureau and the island chapters do not control the price of oil, nor the stock market, nor the subprime situation. There are bigger, national issues that are impacting our top markets that we must all ride out right now.

Tourism is cyclical and we are most definitely in a valley.

In a recent U.S. Conference Board survey, only 36 percent of Americans surveyed in June 2008 plan to take a vacation over the next six months — the lowest level of vacation intentions in 30 years. That means we need to be sure we are taking care of those visitors we have currently, since word of mouth is one of the best ways to garner future business.

If you were not able to attend the HTA Tourism Conference “Hawai‘i a Ma ‘O Aku — So Much More Hawai‘i,” you can find the presentations posted online at www.hawaiitourismauthority.org

There is a lot of good information there, so please take some time to review it.

On the HTA home page, you can see the highlights from the $4.9 million summer campaign that was put together to address the anticipated downturn (under 2009 Annual Tourism Marketing Plan Presentations for Hawai‘i Visitors & Convention Bureau).

It appears that this campaign, along with our partners’ efforts, may have helped to prop up the summer.

On our side, the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau has shifted some of its print magazine advertising to online, added a new call to action on our television ads, stepped up our public relations efforts and we just finished an e-mail blast to our opt-in consumer database of 220,000, which highlights our partners’ special offers, along with festivals and events, for the remainder of 2008.

This is all in addition to our trade efforts of wholesaler cooperative programs, trade shows, product launches and destination training on Kaua‘i. KVB will be issuing another consumer e-mail blast in November 2008 with the intent of impacting the first quarter 2009. No single program can turn things around, but it is our hope that through the integration of all our programs and working together with our partners, we can put Kaua‘i in a better place for those willing to travel.

• Sue Kanoho is the executive director of the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau. She can be reached at kauai@hvcb.org

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