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'Roaming Gnome' arrives today for visit in Hawaii


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POSTED: Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hawaii kicked Cancun's okole and Jamaica was an also-ran, so the Travelocity Roaming Gnome will arrive in the islands this morning as part of its six-week “;Summer of Possibilities”; campaign.

He will spend his first night at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, according to Joel Frey, Travelocity public relations manager.

Victorious Hawaii garnered 56,470 votes, about 46 percent, while Cancun received 52,057, or 43 percent, and Jamaica had 13,677 votes, or 11 percent. Interest and boosterism for the destinations generated a campaign record of more than 100,000 votes, Frey said.

The possibility of the inanimate mascot's Travelocity- and tourism-promoting trip to Hawaii was reported in this space Thursday. Since then the company has been plugging the promotion in social-media circles, including Facebook and Twitter, while users of the sites have been getting out the vote for their desired destinations.

Nathan Kam, vice president for travel and tourism at McNeil Wilson Communications Inc., said about a dozen people within the company and its affiliates are social-media users who got the word out. Social-media users from Stryker Weiner & Yokota Public Relations Inc., Becker Communications Inc., The Limtiaco Co. and others were also active in encouraging Hawaii fans to vote, as were people who have no work-related stake in tourism.

“;You know Hawaii folks, we're so proud, eh? We wanna be the 'no ka oi' guys,”; Kam said.

The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau is a McNeil Wilson client, but the get-the-gnome-here effort was “;never an HVCB initiative,”; he said.

The HVCB was working yesterday afternoon to learn more about Travelocity's plans for the gnome.

“;We're just trying to find out how we can get a glimpse of the itinerary, how long he will be here and whether they will welcome suggestions,”; said Darlene Morikawa, the bureau's director of public relations and communications.

They will, Frey said. The gnome's Facebook page started receiving recommendations of places to go, restaurants to try and things to do as soon as the vote results were announced.

“;We want to share places that he may not be aware of but are still safe and accessible to the public,”; and that one needn't cross private property to access, she said.

The gnome and his four handlers — one from Travelocity's San Francisco operations, one who works on Oahu and two from its advertising agency — will spend today and tomorrow on Oahu, Friday on Kauai, Saturday on the Big Island, Sunday on Maui and then back to Oahu Monday, Frey said. He will leave when the next winning destination is announced.

The company is working out some island stops the gnome will make, but will not schedule every minute of every day. He will see a hula show, might pop up at the Polynesian Cultural Center tomorrow; he could make an appearance at a zip-line operation in Princeville; he will likely be photographed in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island.

“;We want to have a bit of an itinerary,”; Frey said, “;but the whole point of the gnome is adventure.”;

Facebook users who get pictures taken with the gnome are invited to submit the photos for a chance to win prizes.

Local businesses and attractions that the gnome visits get talked about on Facebook and Twitter, and pictures and video are also posted. His just-concluded Philadelphia trip included visits to the Philly Soft Pretzel Factory, Cosmi's for a cheese steak sandwich, and a bicycle shop.

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Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Reach her by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).