The HVCB says it isBy Russ Lynch
approaching its desired
goal of attracting 40
to 55 events a year
As it gears up for next month's meeting of the Lions Clubs International, the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau says it is has stepped up the pace of booking future convention business.
The convention-visitor count is already up strongly from last year, with 170,136 people coming to the islands in the first three months of this year to attend meetings, conventions or incentive-group activities. That was up 17.2 percent from 145,203 meetings attendees in the 1999 quarter, according to the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.
Next month's Lions Convention, meanwhile, is expected to bring 18,000-to-20,000 people to the state. Although it will be among the largest conventions so far at the 2-year-old Hawaii Convention Center, the count is well below the estimate of 30,000 or more visitors projected when the meeting was booked in 1995.
The drop in numbers reflects a change within the Lions organization and does not appear to have anything to do with Hawaii as a destination, said Sandra Moreno, HVCB vice president of meetings, conventions and incentives. She noted that last year's Lions convention in San Diego also resulted in fewer arrivals than originally expected.
Even after the drop in Hawaii, the Lions Convention will be the center's biggest convention this year, followed by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans in October with an expected attendance of 13,000. The largest convention ever at the center was the American Dental Association's October meeting which drew about 30,000 visitors.
For all of 2000, the HVCB said it has made 26 definite bookings for the Hawaii Convention Center and another eight tentative bookings, while helping to generate dozens of other meetings that will be held in hotels.
The total number of visitors this year just for convention center activities is expected to pass the 100,000 mark, significantly higher than last year's 67,000.
But what HVCB officials say pleases them most is the pace of bookings for events beyond this year. They cite:
Three definite convention center bookings signed last month, for meetings to be held next February and March and in February 2002, bringing a combined total of about 9,300 visitors, who are expected to contribute more than $43 million in visitor spending.The HVCB said it is approaching its goal of closing 40 to 55 contracts each year for future convention center events.
Verbal commitments made this month for five center events, to bring in a total of 42,000 visitors between May 2003 and March 2010, generating more than $216 million in spending.
In addition to the center bookings, the HVCB's sales team in April also generated 21 meetings to be held in hotels, to use 6,400 hotel room-nights,Moreno said. A room-night is an industry term referring to one room booked for one night.
Tony Vericella, HVCB president and chief executive officer, said the pace of bookings has picked up since the seven convention center bookings made in 1997.
In 1998, Moreno's first full year in the HVCB's meetings marketing job, there were 33 bookings for the center. "That's a pretty dramatic pace," Vericella said.
Last year, 44 convention center meetings were booked.
Moreno said the HVCB's team will generate tentative bookings this year for about a million room-nights at individual hotels and past experience shows that about 40 percent of them will become definite bookings.
Moreno reports these bookings for the convention center's immediate future:
In 2001, 12 definite, with a total of 31,000-plus attendees, and 20 tentative, with a possible 85,000 attendees.After that the bookings tail off to 2010, when the center has 1 definite booking with 13,000 visitors expected and 8 tentative bookings with 79,800 visitors.
In 2002, 13 definite, with 46,100 attendees, and 17 tentative, with 51,600 people.
But the pace at which the sales people are making bookings indicates that the picture of future will rapidly change, the HVCB executives said.
Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau