sets ambitious targets
The agency believes it canBy Russ Lynch
book 180 conventions in
the next five years
The Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau, saying it already has bookings worth well over $1 billion in direct spending in the Hawaii economy over the next 10 years, is embarking on a campaign to multiply that many times.
The HVCB said it has new empowerment, and funding, from the Hawaii Tourism Authority that will for the first time let it negotiate Hawaii Convention Center space rental rates with convention organizers, even going as far as making the space free if it will result in a significant overall benefit to the economy.
Sandra Moreno, the HVCB's vice president for meetings, conventions and incentives, said reservations already on the books for the coming years are expected to generate a total of $1.4 billion in spending by people from outside Hawaii attending the meetings. That translates into $111 million in direct tax revenues to the state government, Moreno said in a recent interview.
That was achieved under the old rules in which floor rental rates and charges for other services were strictly set by the Convention Center Authority. The CCA is the state agency responsible for the center and the $340 million debt from its development and construction.
The rules changed, however, when the Legislature last year approved direct funding of tourism promotion, including the convention center, from the hotel room tax. That has generated close to $60 million a year for the Hawaii Tourism Authority to channel to the HVCB and other bodies to promote tourism.
Recently, the HTA, the HVCB and the CCA got together and came up with common goals. One is the sales target, writing contracts during the next five years for at least 180 new events to take place during and beyond those years.
The HVCB, which has the state contract for the long-term marketing of the center, was told by the HTA that it has the money to do the marketing. The first result was hiring two top-level sales representatives on the mainland and a plan to hire three more, Moreno said.
However, they also gave the marketers the ability to set rates competitively. The purpose is not to make money from the center itself but to bring in groups that pour money into the community. "Convention centers are not built to make an operating profit, but are built as business generators," said Alan Hayashi, executive director of the CCA.