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Thursday, October 4, 2001


Remember 9-11-01


Caution urged in
tourism promotion

Stressing the safety of Hawaii
could actually be counterproductive,
visitor industry leaders say


By Russ Lynch
rlynch@starbulletin.com

While Hawaii's main industry, tourism, seeks to recover from the worldwide travel decline caused by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, it has to be careful about the message, tourism leaders said yesterday.

Stressing the safety of Hawaii could even be counterproductive, Tony Vericella, president and chief executive officer of the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau, told a Hawaii Tourism Authority meeting.

Talking "safe" when you don't need to raises a question about safety, and Hawaii's whole image for decades "communicates safe," Vericella said.

"No destination should ever really use it," he said.

What Hawaii does need to do is spend money fast to say that Hawaii is open for business, is still a great place to visit and there are bargains galore, Vericella said.

To get the promotions started, the HTA voted to allow the HVCB to use $2 million for public relations and advertising in the next few weeks, money that would normally be in the budget for calendar year 2002.

But as Hawaii's tourism organizations try to develop a united strategy for a funding request at the special session of the Legislature to take place later this month, Vericella could not be precise about what the message should be.

Initially, there needs to be something sympathetic but welcoming, he said.

He cited New York City's new campaign that starts with a "thanks for your help" message and follows with messages that New York is still "the greatest city on earth" and "the spirit of America is not broken."

New York has taken the position that it will emerge stronger than ever, he said.

The HVCB has very little money to do instant recovery campaigning, about $895,000 for the rest of this year for North American marketing.

But HVCB and the HTA have a plan that calls for spending $20 million in the next six months. They want $10 million in a special appropriation from the Legislature and figure they can come up with another $5 million by redirecting current budgets. The rest would be in cooperative marketing deals from the private sector.

The objectives are to put laid-off employees back to work, to keep local businesses alive and to stabilize visitor arrivals so that by June 2002 figures would be equal with June 2001, Vericella said.

Hawaii is not that hard to market, he said.

"There are no negatives associated with Hawaii," he said, and it has a "uniquely positive global brand."

Various themes have been discussed for advertising, such as stressing the blessings Hawaii has, the aloha spirit and Hawaii as a place of recovery and "rejuvenation," but final decisions have not been made, he said.



Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau



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