Wednesday, June 30, 1999

HTA’s top
goal: Boost

Its long-awaited strategic plan
focuses on improving visitors'
experience in Hawaii

By Russ Lynch


The Hawaii Tourism Authority wants to increase visitor spending in the islands by 4.5 percent a year through the next five years, but not by simply attracting more tourists.

The HTA's tourism strategic plan, made public today, stresses a quality experience for tourists with minimum adverse effects on the environment or Hawaii residents. One answer, according to the plan, is to get tourists to spend more by getting them to stay longer and giving them better events and attractions on which to spend money.

The HTA wants to increase annual visitor spending to $14.9 billion in the year 2005 from an estimated $11.1 billion this year, a 35 percent increase without factoring in inflation.

The number of tourists would not grow that much. The HTA target is for a 19 percent increase in visitor arrivals from all sources over the same five-year period, with westbound arrivals going up 25 percent and a less optimistic target of a 4 percent increase in eastbound visitors over five years.

The HTA wants to have the neighbor islands improve their tourist numbers at a faster rate than Oahu.

One critical goal of the strategic plan is to improve Waikiki. The plan also aims to improve relations between the community, the government and the tourism industry and the HTA said it intends to work with airlines to find ways they can make more seats available to Hawai.

The strategic plan was presented at an HTA meeting in the state Capitol today.

Armed with $50 million to $60 million in funding from a dedicated share of the hotel room tax, the HTA was established by the 1998 Legislature and its 13-member board was appointed by Gov. Ben Cayetano in October.

The volunteer panel went to work almost immediately on its strategic plan. The document presented today was a draft labeled "for discussion purposes only," which will be taken on tour to get community input, starting with an Oahu public meeting at the Hawaii Convention Center July 13. It could be revised after that.The HTA also plans to make the strategic plan available on its Internet site, but it is not yet filed there.

Some of the key strategies are:

Bullet Manage the strategic growth of tourism in ways that meet economic goals, cultural values, preservation of natural assets and community interests in Hawaii.

Bullet Focus on visitor expenditures rather than the sheer number of tourists. "The priority will be on targeting visitors with a propensity for higher spending and/or longer lengths of stay," the document says.

Bullet Develop communication, education and outreach to help the public, tourism industry and government sectors' understanding of tourism and support for it.

Bullet Raise Hawaii's promotional presence in major market areas around the world. "In the past few years, even with Hawaii's great product and well-recognized brand, Hawaii has been overshadowed in the global promotional battle," the plan says.

Bullet Develop new tourist events and experiences that are related to Hawaii's agriculture, culture, education, health and wellness, nature, sports and technology.

Bullet Be a strong advocate for investments in infrastructure and support services to strengthen tourism but at the same time enhance the quality of life for residents, particularly by revitalizing Waikiki and and other key tourist destination areas.

"This is the dawn of a new era for tourism in Hawaii," the report concludes. "For the first time a true partnership between business and government has been created to oversee tourism marketing and development from a statewide perspective," with sufficient funding to compete with other destinations around the world, it said.

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