Isles push to expand meetings business


POSTED: Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hawaii's struggling visitor industry is pulling out all the stops for 120 corporate and inventive meeting planners in attendance at the Pacific Rim Incentives & Meetings Exchange, an event that could help the state generate new meeting business.

PRIME finished yesterday at Waikoloa Beach Resort on the Big Island; however, a round of post-conference trips and site inspections begins today and runs through Monday.

“;Most of the planners taking part are decision-makers who will be experiencing firsthand both what our islands have to offer as a meetings destination and how our industry professionals can assist them in fulfilling their objectives and return on investment,”; said Priscilla Texeira, PRIME's managing director and founder of the conference.

Each of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau's island chapter bureaus representing Kauai, Oahu, Maui County and the Big Island are making special presentations or hosting site tours of properties on their respective islands. All hope to get the lucrative business travel market back on course. The global economic downturn as well as the new business travel policies that emerged after the government bailouts caused Hawaii's business travel market to lose ground.

Hawaii visitors that came due to a business meeting, convention or incentive fell 17.7 percent in July to 22,332, according to the latest data from the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. Year-to-date through July, arrivals for this market fell 23.4 percent to 223,439, DBEDT reported.

The visitors bureau, PRIME's major sponsor this year, hopes to help fill in some of the gaps by using the conference to generate shorter-term bookings from North America and Asia, said Mike Murray, HVCB's vice president of sales and marketing for corporate meetings and incentives.

So far, HVCB already has booked two 4,500 room-night incentive programs slated to come to the Big Island in 2011 and a 350 room-night incentive program set for May 2010 on Kauai, Murray said. Both groups were from North America; however, Murray said Asia also will be a fruitful market.

While the bulk of PRIME planners came from North America, around 30 planners were from Japan, China and South Korea. The Asian contingent represents the largest group of meetings professionals from Asia since the annual conference began in 1998.

“;The rest of the year, we have to travel into Asia to tell large groups of planners and potential clients why Hawaii is such a great destination for meetings,”; said Murray. “;But with PRIME we get to show them, and this will help tremendously in developing the kind of relationships that lead to new business opportunities.”;