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Friday, October 31, 2014         

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HVCB market blitz targets 3 cities

Dallas, Denver and Phoenix have key airport hubs vital for raising visitor traffic

By Allison Schaefers

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A strong summer and year-end finish for Hawaii's visitor industry is riding heavily on whether the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau's marketing blitzes in Dallas, Denver and Phoenix start filling planes.

While these markets have brought visitors to Hawaii for some time, arrivals from those areas typically are lower than from the state's top visitor producers — Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, San Diego and New York/New Jersey. However, the fact that Dallas, Denver and Phoenix are secondary airline hubs with room to grow has elevated their importance.

HVCB has launched blitzes in these cities to improve overall visitor traffic to Hawaii and offset expected shortfalls from Japan related to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

"The Hawaii Tourism Authority gave us an additional $2 million and we were able to react very quickly," said John Monahan, HVCB president and chief executive. "The private sector has embraced our efforts and matched our contributions by 3 to 1 conservatively."

At least 18 members of Hawaii's visitor industry, including Pleasant Holidays, Hawaii's largest wholesaler; and hotel companies like Outrigger, Marriott, Starwood, Aqua and Disney have joined forces to sell Hawaii with HVCB. Together they have produced results, said Jay Talwar, HVCB senior vice president of marketing.

"We saw an immediate spike in Web traffic to GoHawaii.com timed to the blitzes," Talwar said. "The response to the Dallas session was so strong that, regrettably, HVCB had to turn people away from the event because of lack of space."

These latest blitzes are expected to boost visitor arrivals by an additional 26,000 from July through year-end, said Hawaii Tourism Authority economist Cy Feng. The gain, when combined with those from other markets, is enough to project total 2011 arrivals to Hawaii will increase by 5.4 percent to 7.47 million and overall visitor spending to rise by 11 percent to $12.7 billion, Feng said.

Another benefit of the blitzes is that they increase load factors for airlines in the key cities at a time when carriers are cutting nonperforming flights and routes, Monahan said. And they have helped offset Japan drops, he said.

"There's no question that we need to diversify markets, but it's great to have a strong base to serve as a platform to build on," Monahan said, adding that HVCB kicked off the year with blitzes in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, where it will return this fall.

Before the Japan tragedy, year-to-date visitor arrivals from HVCB markets (North America) were up 10.9 percent, 4.7 percentage points over the goal, Monahan said. When the numbers for April are announced, the increase is expected to narrow to 7.5 percent. However, additional marketing programs to drive U.S. business will continue to buoy the market, he said.

"Summer will be very strong to Hawaii, particularly from the U.S. West," said Jack Richards, president and chief executive of Pleasant Holidays LLC, an HVCB partner in Dallas, Denver and Phoenix.

"We've seen a double-digit increase in summer bookings and spending is up by 9 percent," Richards said.

Other industry players have said that they expect success this time around because HVCB's blitzes have produced results before. The blitzes, which began in late 2008 as the economy begun to slide, helped Hawaii rebound from the recession, said Jim Tollefson of the Chamber of Commerce, who presented the American Marketing Association "Marketer of the Year Award" to HVCB last month.

"HVCB's series of brilliantly executed market blitzes and other branding initiatives have clearly helped drive business to the Hawaiian Islands from our largest market, North America," Tollefson said.

In addition to that award, HVCB's "Perfect Moments" campaign won "Best of Show" at the recent American Advertising Federation Hawaii Chapter annual Pele Awards. The campaign, which is used extensively in the blitzes, also previously won a Gold Adrian award at the prestigious Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International awards in New York.

"Even more gratifying than the awards was the fact that our marketing partners have told us that we are doing it right," Talwar said.

Potential visitors in blitz cities are saturated with images and news from Hawaii, he said.

"We look to put together programs that surround them for months," Talwar said. "In the morning, they see us on the morning news and we're on newspaper cover wraps. They take the train or drive and see us on billboards and video screens. We're in the elevator at their work and we're on their computer when they go online. In the evening, they'll see commercials about Hawaii and they'll have opportunities to interact with the people of Hawaii, to see our culture, and try our foods."

The Hawaii Tourism Authority and state Legislature made a smart move when they increased HVCB's marketing budgets to allow them to quickly and effectively counter the downturn in travel, Tollefson said.

"In my view, the added investment in tourism marketing was the best form of ‘stimulus spending' the state could have undertaken, because the return on investment was quickly and effectively realized," he said.

HVCB's previous campaigns in California and the Pacific Northwest produced results for blitz partner Expedia, said Doug Miller, vice president Media Solutions for Expedia.

The blitzes increased Expedia's click-thru rate, featured hotels on the Expedia site saw significant year-over-year growth, islands saw double- and triple-digit growth and airlines saw their ticket bookings on Expedia.com increase by 60 percent and by 103 percent for Expedia.ca (Expedia's Canadian version), Miller said.

"The campaign proved to be an example for how a tourism bureau can successfully bring together several elements of a partnership by showcasing each island chapter, hotels, airlines and destination services all within one engaging, rich media campaign that can boast high interaction rates with consumers," he said.






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