For the first time in years, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) is making a concerted effort to attract visitors during the summer travel season.
Joining forces with airline, wholesale and supplier partners, HVCB hopes to counteract negative travel perceptions with a new multi-million-dollar marketing campaign on the West Coast. Its message is simple: Despite all the odds, Hawaii remains a viable vacation destination offering tremendous value and experiences.
“People are talking with travel agents and scanning the Internet as they look at airfares to Hawaii, and if they think those fares are too high, they’ll go somewhere else,” said Jay Talwar, HVCB senior vice president of sales and marketing. “The goal of this campaign is to maintain demand to the islands.”
Summer and winter getaways to the islands have traditionally sold themselves, but these are not traditional times. Rising fuel costs are impacting travel around the world.
In early April, Hawaii suffered an additional blow with the closures of Aloha and ATA airlines, slashing the state’s trans-Pacific airlift by 15 percent. Norwegian Cruise Lines pulled two ships out of the islands in February and May, leaving just the Pride of America running interisland excursions.
Even worse, grim Hawaii tourism data has hit the headlines of late, clouding summer forecasts. Industry consultant Hospitality Advisors LLC pegged Hawaii’s April hotel occupancy rates at 69.5 percent, the lowest figure for that month since 2003. The Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism reported that total April arrivals by air and cruise visitors declined by 7.6 percent compared to the same month in 2007.
In order to fight back, HVCB has started running print ads in major daily newspapers in San Francisco and Los Angeles, directing agents and their clients to a page that lists HVCB’s summer offers. The campaign also covers paid search and banner ads on select Web sites; opportunities for West Coast television and radio promotions; and Hawaii story placements by travel bloggers.
Front and center in the new initiative are $200 discounts on summer airfares, courtesy of a number of travel wholesale partners. Participants include American Airlines Vacations, American Express Vacations, Classic Vacations, Expedia, Orbitz, NWA WorldVacations, Pleasant Holidays, Travelocity and United Vacations.
Along with these $200 airfare discounts, incentives range from free upgrades and free rental cars to American Express gift cards. For example, when clients purchase Travelocity’s five-night air-inclusive package at the Big Island’s Keauhou Resort, the $926 rate per person includes daily breakfast for two and a room upgrade. An offer from American Express Vacations provides clients with the sixth night free and daily breakfast at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa. United Vacations promises savings of more than $900 on summer getaways to the Princeville Resort on Kauai’s North Shore. American Airlines Vacations throws in a room upgrade, $25 dining credit and special rates at the Doubletree Alana Hotel Waikiki. Pleasant Holidays is pitching five nights at ResortQuest Shores at Waikoloa on Hawaii’s Big Island, starting at $815 per person and including a coupon booklet and two-for-one luau admission.
Agents and their clients can study all the current deals on HVCB’s dedicated summer specials Web page.
“This is an example of how Hawaii is different from other destinations,” said Talwar. “Our visitor industry is banding together in tough times. We did the same thing when Aloha and ATA went out of business. Everyone cooperated to take care of the visitors who were affected by the unexpected news. The bottom line is we want to give clients the best value and a wonderful experience in Hawaii.”