Tourism agency holds back funds for Korea marketing


POSTED: Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The state tourism agency voted yesterday not to release additional marketing dollars for the burgeoning Korean market, which was expected to double in visitors to the islands over the next several years.




Funds released

        HTA yesterday released the following additional funds for Hawaii tourism marketing:

» North America: $100,000


» Hawaii Tourism Europe: $45,000


» Korea: $0


» Corporate and incentive travel: $310,000


» Japan: $700,000


>>Total: $1.16 million


The Hawaii Tourism Authority board released $1.16 million of $2 million reallocated for marketing the state domestically and overseas, but didn't approve the proposed $607,000 to generate business from the Korean visitor segment and another $238,000 to be determined for other marketing efforts.

Although a small number of Korean visitors come to Hawaii, the relaxing of travel restrictions and Korea's inclusion in the United State's visa-waiver program was expected to boost business from the country.

The move comes as Korean Air Lines Co. Ltd. plans to upgrade its fleet in the upcoming months, adding 100 seats more per day to the market, according to David Uchiyama, HTA's vice president of tourism marketing.

“;It's an unfortunate turn of events,”; he said. “;If they don't have the load factors to make it a viable route, we could lose that. Accessibility into the state is vital.”;

The state has never launched a consumer campaign in Korea, where the low value of the won has forced many people to stop traveling.

Some board members voiced concerns yesterday over allocating limited marketing dollars to programs that wouldn't generate short-term business needed to boost Hawaii's dwindling visitor count.

“;We went through a painstaking procedure in cutting programs to be able to reallocate dollars into the marketing category at the expense of many wonderful programs,”; including those that bring Hawaiian music and hula to airports, harbors and cruise ships, said Marsha Wienert, state tourism liaison.

However, HTA board member Sharon Weiner, who was in favor of spending money on Korea marketing efforts, said it is imperative that the state act now to capture more of the market share in growing tourism segments.

“;We can't keep dragging our heels on the absolutely most important things we can do for this economy right now, which is to get more spending into these markets,”; she said.

Separately, the board is expected to have a short list of between three to six candidates by February to fill HTA's permanent chief executive position, which was left vacant when embattled former CEO Rex Johnson resigned Oct. 8.