Wednesday, November 4, 1998

HVCB sees 1.9%
boost in tourism

But arrivals from Asia and
the Pacific are expected to be
flat next year

By Russ Lynch


The Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau today said its biggest-ever marketing budget should increase tourist arrivals by 1.9 percent next year, to 6.89 million.

However, despite a major new push in Japan, calendar 1999 arrivals from the Asia-Pacific region are expected to be flat when compared with 1998.

At the second meeting of the state's new Hawaii Tourism Authority today, the HVCB detailed its plans to spend $33.4 million on marketing in the fiscal year through next June, by far its biggest spending on advertising and promotions. Last year, its total budget was about $25 million.

The 1998-99 money, boosted by a hotel room tax increase that starts Jan. 1, is expected to increase 1999 calendar-year arrivals from the mainland, Canada and Europe -- the westbound segment -- by 2.8 percent to 4.36 million, the HVCB said. In the fiscal year, the HVCB plans to spend 74 percent of its marketing budget, or $22.4 million, in the westbound markets.

Despite plans to spend 26 percent of the budget, or $7.9 million, in Japan and other Asia-Pacific markets, eastbound arrivals are expected to increase 0.3 percent to 2.53 million over 1998. In Japan, where it has had little or no presence lately, the HVCB plans national and regional television and print advertising on the theme "Big Relax, Big Hawaii."

Hawaii's tourism industry has had to combat the Asian economic crisis which has already resulted in a drop in tourism from Japan.

The HVCB listed other problems that Hawaii faces in continuing to attract tourists. It is a mature destination, today's report said, meaning its attractions and facilities are well known and not new. Repeat visitors, who are not inclined to pay for attractions they've seen before, are approa-ching 60 percent of the market.

This fiscal year, the HVCB said it plans include pushing harder in underdeveloped markets and cultivating new ones, while continuing to work strongly in existing markets. It will target more first-time visitors and bring out new programs to attract visitors in off-peak periods.

The HVCB said it will spend 91 percent of its marketing funds to target leisure travelers and 9 percent on potential business travelers, including conventioneers. Of its total budget, 62 percent is to be spent on advertising and 17 percent on less-direct efforts such as public relations and promotions.

The HVCB expects to boost its own $33.4 million 1998-99 marketing expenditure with another $18.5 million worth of contributions from tourist businesses. That includes participation in HVCB advertising and in-kind contributions such as hotel rooms and airline seats for visiting travel agents and travel writers.

Tony Vericella, president and CEO of the HVCB, presented the report to a jammed meeting of the 13-member Tourism Authority board and public observers in a conference room at the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism offices in the Hemmeter Building.

The HVCB, which pushed hard for the dedicated funding enacted last year, last week had its contract renewed, keeping it on as the state's official tourism marketing arm at least through June. That authorized the state to pay it the $13 million already set for the six months through Dec. 31, the first half of the fiscal year.

Estimates are that the hotel tax will produce another $23 million for that period. The HVCB's total budget therefore is $36 million and it plans to spend most of it on marketing.

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