Tourism agency hires new marketing chief
David Uchiyama takes over as some fear the industry's boom years are over
The Hawaii Tourism Authority, the state's tourism agency, announced yesterday that it has hired a new marketing director at a time when the local visitor industry finds itself challenged in many sectors.
David Uchiyama, who spent nearly decade as regional director of communications for Starwood Hotels & Resorts in Hawaii and French Polynesia, is leaving that position to oversee marketing contracts for leisure, sports and the Hawaii Convention Center, the HTA told members of the state's visitor industry at its 2007 marketing campaign rollout.
TOURISM AUTHORITY SHIFTS GEARS
The Hawaii Tourism Authority, the state's lead tourism agency, will change its marketing director along with its marketing plans in 2007.
David Uchiyama, formerly of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, will oversee marketing contracts for leisure, sports and the Hawaii Convention Center.
It could be a tough inaugural year for Uchiyama, who takes over the post at a time when Hawaii tourism officials are concerned that the visitor industry's boom years have ended.
However, there was plenty of optimism yesterday as marketers unveiled their newest strategies and identified growth opportunities from Europe, Asia, Oceania, Japan and North America.
"With his diverse background in tourism we look forward to the marketing expertise that David will bring to the position, "said Rex Johnson, president and chief executive officer of HTA. "He will play a vital role in making sure that the marketing vision and programs for our state help us meet our goals."
Uchiyama replaces Frank Haas, who resigned from his HTA position earlier this year to join the University of Hawaii's School of Travel Industry Management as an instructor and project deve- loper. Haas, who began his stint with the HTA in 2002 and helped lead the agency to record years in 2004 and 2005, is leaving at a time when tourism officials are concerned that the visitor industry's boom years have ended.
It's likely to be a tough inaugural year for Uchiyama. January visitor numbers, the most recent tourism statistics from the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, were dismal.
Indeed, the forecast for both 2007 and 2008 tourism levels in Hawaii is a gain of 1 percent -- a much more modest rate of increase than the past couple of years.
"As you are all aware 2006 was a very challenging year following two years of market recovery in 2004 and 2005," said Takashi Ichikura, account supervisor for Dentsu Inc., the largest travel agency in Japan. "In 2007, we have been facing the same challenges as we did in 2006."
Other marketers expressed similar concerns as they unveiled their newest strategies; however optimism was also present as tourism contractors from Europe, Asia, Oceania, Japan and North America identified opportunities in their markets.
Plans from all marketers focused on building the number of first-time, group and higher-spending visitors to Hawaii, stepping up educational opportunities for travel industry professionals, and creating more market diversification.
Despite continued barrier to entry complications from the U.S., tourism from new source markets such as Korea and China is growing, said Michael Merner, chairman for Japan-based Marketing Garden Ltd., which was hired to promote Hawaii in Asian countries outside of Japan. And, the market could see further improvement if negotiations for non-stop flights to and from Hawaii come through, he said.
Improvements in airlift could also boost travel from New Zealand and Australia, said Helen Williams, county manager for Hawaii Tourism Oceania's Australia market. Hawaiian Airlines and Virgin Blue Airlines signed a new agreement this month, Williams said. The local carrier and Harmony Airways also are expected to soon sign a code sharing arrangement, she said.
Outbound travel from Europe is projected to grow as much as 60 percent in 2007, said Amanda Hills, who works for Mangum Group, a European marketing concentrating on England and Germany.
The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, which promotes Hawaii to the United States and Canada, said it will continue to focus efforts online and on gateway cities.
"There is still a lot of untapped potential," said Jay Talwar, vice president of marketing for the HVCB.