Sunday, January 18, 2004


Margo Mau Bunnell, the Big Island Visitors Bureau's new director of sales and marketing for Japan and Asia, visits the offices of sister organization Oahu Visitors Bureau.

Golf one way to lure
Japanese to Big Isle

Margo Mau Bunnell

>> Position: Newly hired director of sales and marketing, Japan and Asia, for the Big Island Visitors Bureau.
>> Previous jobs: Director of Far East Sales with Hilton Waikoloa Village and Mauna Kea Resort.
>> Other affiliations: Chief executive officer and a member of the board of the Konishiki Kids Foundation; board member of Benny Agbayani's Myth Youth Foundation.

In your new position with the Big Island Visitors Bureau, what types of things are you planning on doing to get Japanese tourists to visit the Big Island?

The first thing is to probably make the Japanese more aware that there is such a thing called the Big Island. A lot of people don't realize there are seven islands that people can visit. We're going to try to make ourselves stand out because we have a direct daily Japan Airlines flight from Narita Airport in Tokyo.

What do you think are the Big Island's selling points to attract tourists?

The Big Island's selling points for the Japanese are the volcanoes. Everyone wants to see the erupting, red-flowing lava. The second selling point is the star gazing at Mauna Kea with the observatory. We've gotten worldwide recognition, particularly in Japan, since Subaru has an observatory.

I've noticed that there's a current TV show, "Average Joe: Hawaii," that was taped on the Big Island and included a volcano scene. How much do TV shows or films that are shot on the Big Island attract visitors?

It was great publicity for Americans coming westbound to see the beautiful location spots. We'd like to do more TV shoots with the Japanese companies. We've also been doing more print magazines. We've got ParGolf Magazine that is showcasing two Big Island golf courses as its premiere story. It's called "Fairway of Dreams" and the two courses are the Four Seasons Hualalai and the Mauna Kea Beach Golf Course. We've also got Golf Digest coming next month because we're promoting the Big Island as the golf capital of Hawaii.

Since you're on the board of former sumo wrestler Konishiki's foundation, is it possible you might be using him in your marketing efforts?

I will be using a lot of local talent who live in Japan. I cannot really name anyone yet. Dentsu, which is the marketing company for all of Hawaii in Japan now, is using (ukulele star) Jake Shimabukuro.

How will your background help you in this job?

I have the hotel background, I know if we don't fill hotel rooms, the Japanese won't spend money on the island. Hopefully, with that hotel background, we'll market more of the island and they can stay in whatever hotel rooms they choose.

How long has there been a daily flight to the Big Island from Japan?

For about seven years now. But since the Iraq war and SARS, the flight capacity has dropped to maybe a high 50 percent from between 70 and 80 percent.

Do you feel you need to work harder than some of the other islands to attract the Japanese?

To get our identity that we are the Big Island, we have to promote that we have this and this. It will be a big challenge. I don't know if we have to work harder because we have the direct flight, but I think we need to distinguish ourselves because everyone has white-sand beaches. Whatever is unique to the Big Island, we're going to market.

How long do the Japanese visitors stay on the Big Island?

They only stay two or three days, and that's why our repeat clientele is big, because it's usually one or the other attractions they go to because of the short time they stay. They come back to see what they missed. The Japanese who come to the Big Island usually also go to Oahu, and we plan to do a lot of things with the Oahu Visitors Bureau since it's packaged like that right now.

What other types of events do you have on the Big Island that would attract visitors?

We have sporting events here like the Ironman Triathlon, the Kona Marathon and the MasterCard Championship senior golf tournament. We also have the Merrie Monarch.

Inside Hawaii Inc. is a conversation with a member of the Hawaii business community who has changed jobs, been elected to a board or been recognized for accomplishments. Send questions and comments to


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