Hawaii tourism marketers regrouping


POSTED: Thursday, March 19, 2009

California may be Hawaii's best bet for rejuvenating the slumping tourism market, according to Los Altos, Calif.-based Menlo Consulting Group Inc.

Despite North America's recession, there are still some 23.1 million adults who are interested in visiting Hawaii and are likely to visit in the next five years, Menlo Consulting research showed. Of these, previous visitors to Hawaii who are living in the U.S. Pacific Region and those higher-income, less-price-sensitive consumers who live in major airline hub markets will be the most likely to visit now, said Sarita Skidmore, founder and principal of Menlo Consulting.

“;I honestly feel personally, and based on the research, that right now in California you should be able to do very, very well because we are ready for rejuvenation and all Hawaii has to offer,”; Skidmore said.

Six months ago when Hawaii's major tourism marketers gathered the outlook was bleak; however, now most of the performance graphs for the state's major visitor source markets look like red lightning bolts that have hit ground and begun to burrow deeper.

“;The world around us has changed dramatically,”; said Jay Talwar, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau's senior vice president of marketing, as he presented a slide with a performance line that had descended off the charts. “;This could be anything. It could be your 401(k), Hawaii's average daily room rate, the number of arrivals.”;

Still, even in the face of such adversity, it was clear at yesterday's Hawaii Tourism Authority spring marketing update that Hawaii's visitor industry isn't ready to give up. Instead, it's time to focus, coordinate and leverage, they said.

“;Instead of figuring out whose fault it was that the direction of the wind changed, we have to get together and adjust our sails,”; said Mike McCartney, the HTA's new president and chief executive, who officially starts April 6.

Marketers from every region, whether it be the state's most promising North American market or other Asia, Japan, Oceania, and Europe are focusing on identifying their best near-term prospects.

All markets are capitalizing on the interest in President Barack Obama's ties to Hawaii as well as the events surrounding the state's 50th anniversary of statehood. And every segment of the industry is working together to fight new business travel restrictions and to bring more value-added business and leisure travel offers to the marketplace.