Oahu bureau aims to boost visitor spending
The Oahu Visitors Bureau held its annual luncheon at the Hilton Hawaiian Village yesterday
VISITOR NUMBERS are great, and now it's time to increase those visitors' spending.
Those two major points were made during the Oahu Visitors Bureau annual luncheon at the Hilton Hawaiian Village yesterday.
Executive Director Les Enderton also spoke about this year's tourism results, improvements to the state's visitor hub and what to expect in the future.
"We are on target to welcome a record of over 4,750,000 visitors to our island of Oahu this year, contributing well over $5.5 billion to our state's economy," he announced.
Business is so strong that "this past August ... we ran at an almost unbelievable occupancy percentage of 91.2 percent on Oahu," Enderton said. "And our shoulder periods are strengthening." Shoulder periods are off-season periods of travel with lower hotel occupancy.
September is normally a shoulder month, but Oahu's occupancy ran at 86.7 percent. In past years, Enderton and others in the industry viewed 85 percent occupancy as the maximum achievable level.
"Because the inn is basically full, our OVB marketing strategies and programs are focused on increasing visitor spending per person per day, by attracting a more active-lifestyle, higher-spending visitor," he said. That means going after the romance and avid traveler markets.
"We want to get them out and around the island ... experiencing the depth of product that we have here on our island."
Enderton noted that parts of Waikiki are getting an expensive makeover, including reconstruction of the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, the Outrigger Beachwalk project "and what's been done before, with Kapiolani Park and Brunch on the Beach ... are very positive changes that we're going to be addressing more in our marketing," said Enderton.
By 2007 most of the major changes will have been completed "and we will have a sparkling, revitalized Waikiki," Enderton said.
The Oahu Visitors Bureau will work with the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau and other marketing partners to show off the multibillion-dollar facelift.
Competition from other destinations, airline industry setbacks, possible threats of terrorism and flu pandemics drive home the point that "we just have to recognize it's a fragile industry," said Frank Haas, marketing director of the HTA, a state agency.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann, the luncheon's first speaker, pledged to continue to support tourism to Hawaii as well as to continue working to keep visitors safe while they are here.
The city will also do its part to improve Waikiki, he said. The need to embrace the Hawaiian host culture was also emphasized by Hannemann and Enderton.
Enderton believes Hawaii is fortunate to be the nation's most remote land destination.
"We're safe and an American destination and we have that Hawaiian spirit of Aloha which makes us very unique. We couldn't be in a better position."
However, Enderton noted, "We can't stop marketing."
In other OVB business, Roberta Rinker-Ludloff, the group's outgoing chairwoman, was presented a mahalo gift for her two-year term.
New Chairman Mike Nozaki was introduced. Previously the chairman of the board's marketing committee, Nozaki compared taking the helm after Rinker-Ludloff's term to taking the reins of a football team that had just won the Super Bowl.