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Tourism road show brings back returns

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    Performers from the Polynesian Cultural Center and Marriott Resorts Hawaii representatives gather for a photo under the Chicago Theatre sign while on a promotional tour of the mainland.

Marriott Resorts Hawaii said a recent marketing tour that covered 11 mainland cities from Los Angeles to Chicago helped its hotels realize an 11 percent increase in room nights and a 40 percent rise in revenue.

General mangers and sales executives participated from all five Marriott resorts in Hawaii, including JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa, Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, Wai­lea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa on Maui, Wai­ko­loa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa on the Big Island and Kauai Marriott Resort on Kala­paki Beach. Joined by a team of musicians and dancers from the Polynesian Cultural Center, they boarded a 45-foot-long motor coach wrapped with images of Hawaii and took to open road from Jan. 17 to Feb. 10 to promote travel to the islands.

The 2011 Spirit of Aloha Tour was Marriott’s third U.S. road show since it started its blitz of key mainland markets in 2009 to address rapidly falling business. The four-week tour, which was unique to Hawaii, began in Los Angeles and spanned 5,314 miles as it moved through large cities like San Francisco and Sacramento, Calif., to Minneapolis, Chicago, Omaha, Neb., Denver, Dallas and Houston.

"The tour was designed to blitz key U.S. markets with sales calls and media appearances featuring positive messages and images of Hawaii and Marriott," said Chris Tatum, vice president of Marriott Resorts Hawaii. "Quite simply, it was a media-hyped, buzz-generating promotional tour on wheels, delivering sunny Hawaiian smiles and island-style aloha across the country. And the response was tremendous from our customers and partners, who are always happy to see us during the coldest time of the year."

The tour was supported by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, Hawaiian Airlines and the Polynesian Cultural Center, Tatum said.

"You really can’t do an effective job alone. It takes partners. It takes a collaboration. Marriott invests significant marketing dollars in these promotional tours, and because we approach it from a holistic destination view, a lot of folks other than Marriott benefit," he said.

Hawaiian Airlines helped show people how to get here, and all the chefs, dancers and other entertainers showcased the isles’ culture and cuisine, Tatum said. Chef Mark Ellman of Mala Wai­lea restaurant at the Wai­lea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa shared Hawaii regional cuisine during stops in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento, he said.

"The Spirit of Aloha Tour is a rare opportunity to take a little of the Hawaiian Islands to the U.S. mainland," said Ray Maga­lei, Polynesian Cultural Center’s director of marketing. "Hawaii’s ability to successfully partner in an effort like this is an example of the same spirit of aloha that we are trying to share with our visitors. "

Marriott and its travel partners visited with more than 200 customers, including meeting planners, wholesalers, online travel agents and retail agents such as Pleasant Holidays, Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz and Costco, Tatum said.

"(Group bookings) were significant," he said. "We generated considerable interest for programs at all of our properties for this year and beyond."

The tour garnered up to $90,000 worth of TV publicity and was promoted on radio programs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Minneapolis, Denver, Dallas and Houston. It also gave back to the communities it visited by stopping at seven hospital where an hour of Hawaiian entertainment was provided and vacations were donated to help support Children’s Miracle Network, a nonprofit group that raises funds for about 170 children’s hospitals in the United States.

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