Japan tourism
back on track

The state had 11.4% growth
in Japanese arrivals last year

For the first time in seven years, the number of visitors from Japan rose last year with marketing led by Japanese advertising firm Dentsu Inc.

The islands welcomed 1.48 million Japanese tourists in 2004, 11.4 percent higher than a year earlier, and just short of the Hawaii Tourism Authority's goal of 1.5 million for the year.

The tourism industry was eyeing the numbers from Japan because 2004 was the first year the state's multimillion-dollar marketing contract was divided among multiple agencies instead of being handled solely by the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau. Dentsu won the $7.5 million contract to market the state in Japan.

"When the HTA decided to split up the contacts, people were asking what's going to happen? Will Hawaii still hold its brand? But look at the results. The proof is in the pudding," said Sharon Serene, owner of Sharon Serene Creative, which provides support services to Hawaii retailers.

Dentsu officials discussed the results of their first year's efforts to tourism industry officials yesterday at the Sheraton-Waikiki Hotel.

Dentsu's campaign for this year, called "Discover Aloha," is designed to enhance the images of Hawaii that communicate the state's unique culture and history.

For 2005, the tourism authority has targeted 8.1 percent growth in arrivals from Japan, marketing director Frank Haas said.

The authority expects Hawaii to be visited by about 1.6 million Japanese this year, down from a peak 2.15 million arrivals in 1997, he said.

"The market shows great opportunity for growth if we seize the moment," said Dave Erdman, president and chief executive of PacRim Marketing Group Inc.

Dentsu's campaign is on the right track, and it will work if Hawaii's visitor industry supports it, Erdman said.

Ukulele star Jake Shimabukuro, a fourth-generation Japanese American who was the headliner for the Fuji Rock Festival in 2003, will again serve as the state's ambassador of aloha for the campaign.

"We want to continue to strengthen the image of Hawaii as a destination that has depth and high quality," said Takashi Ichikura, executive director of Hawaii Tourism Japan, a Dentsu unit.

The number of travelers to Hawaii is growing, but approaching a saturation point, Ichikura said.

"It is necessary to improve the quality of tourists, in terms of length of stay and spending," he said.

This year's marketing appeal is designed to reach a broader range of tourists who are more interested in diversity and value than their predecessors. Dentsu wants Japanese visitors to think of Hawaii as an exciting and mysterious place, with multiple islands and cultural traditions. Traditionally, most Japanese visitors flock to Waikiki and the Big Island.

Dentsu plans to focus on attracting families, seniors and weddings. The company is planning an advertising campaign in May and June to gear up for the summer travel season. Tourism officials will also promote the islands in travel expositions.

A television program, "Deep in Aloha," will be broadcast every Thursday for 13 weeks through March.

Visual images of the campaign include Hawaii's geography and images of hula dancers, surfers and paniolo.

The advertisements will use tangible images such as aloha shirts and leis to illustrate aspects of the culture such as the aloha spirit and Aloha Friday.

That's great for stores like Reyn's, which sells aloha shirts, said Mike Jenness, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the company.

"It's the best presentation that I've seen in years," Jenness said.

Hawaii Tourism Authority
Dentsu Inc.

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