Hawaii is putting on a happy face these days and, in turn, giving some spots on the West Coast “a thousand things to smile about,” in its latest campaign to attract visitors to the islands.
Kayaking in Kapalua Bay
Under the theme "Hawai‘i: A Thousand Reasons to Smile," the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) has brought the tropics to Los Angeles to roll out a month-long promotion of Hawaii-focused activities and branding. These include putting up “Go Hawaii” billboards at the confluence of two of the city’s busiest freeways, showcasing the islands’ cuisine and products at The Grove, a very popular outdoor mall among other L.A hot spots, and hosting events for agents and writers. Similar programs are destined for Seattle and the Pacific Northwest later this season. A Hawaii blitz in San Francisco led the way in March.
The latest campaign roll comes on the tail of some positive news, according John Monahan, HVCB’ s president and CEO. “We’ve had a very good summer," he said. "Our arrivals, especially from the West Coast, for July were up more than 8 percent from the year before. That may not sound like a lot but it is when you consider many other destinations have been looking at 1 percent if they are lucky, it sounded pretty good to us.”
Hawaii has been coming off a very tough year. Despite steep discounting and amazing deals, the number of visitors to Hawaii has fallen by 8.2 percent so far. Those visitors who do come spend a lot less money. Hotels have been discounting as much as 70 percent off peak rates. But industry officials have been refocusing their efforts, checking where the business actually does come from and marking up the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s $71 million budget for 2010 appropriately. Eight markets have been identified with an action plan.
The Fairmont Orchid's waterfall
The HVCB is hoping for some 6.7 million visitors in 2010 according to recently published reports. That would be a 2 percent increase from the nearly 6.6 million forecast for this year. The islands saw 6.8 million visitors in 2008, after banner years in 2007 (7.4 million) and 2006 (7.5 million).
“It has been tough for a lot of destinations and particularly difficult for Hawaii but I think we are finally seeing our way through this,” says Monahan. He points to new programs, festivals and events underway; the newly designed St. Regis Princeville Resort that is finally opening up at the end of September as well as other new properties, rebuilds and attractions that are retooling for new business around all four islands. “Things are changing fast," he adds. "But we’re moving forward and we’ve got a very strong product.”