Big Island boasts business bookings
HILO » Business travelers including convention-goers will take up the slack in the Big Island tourism industry as the number of vacationers declines due to high airfares, two travel industry groups say.
A convention last week of the Pacific Rim Incentives and Meetings Exchange resulted in 35 tentative or firm plans to bring business groups to the Big Island over the next three years, representing an economic infusion of up to $125 million during that period, said PRIME Managing Director Priscilla Texeira.
Assisted by the Big Island Visitors Bureau, the PRIME attendees included more than 100 delegates from Asia and North America, staying at four West Hawaii resorts.
Unlike some conventions, where audience members listen to speeches, the PRIME delegates participate in one-to-one meetings to arrange business travel, Texeira said. Companies represented included Mitsubishi, Toyota, Microsoft and Boeing.
A growing inventory of meeting space makes the Big Island an attractive place to hold business conventions, Texeira said.
West Hawaii now has almost a half-million square feet of such space and 5,000 rooms to stay in. The Hilo side, suitable for smaller groups, has 100,000 square feet of space and 650 rooms.
An example of the growth is the 12,000-square-foot Naupaka Ballroom, which opened at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott last year. Overall, West Hawaii resorts have done $500 million worth of renovations in recent years, Texeira said.
Besides space, the high value of the euro has made meetings in Hawaii cheaper than in Europe, she said. Hawaii is perceived as safer than some European locations.
When doing business with Asia, it is less expensive for Asians and North Americans to meet halfway than fly all the way to the others' territory, she said.
Business travelers can also see exotic sites such as active volcanoes and old lava caves, and cultural sites such as four state and national parks in West Hawaii.