Luring the Leery

To combat a sluggish market, Maui Visitors Bureau plans a 2003 media blitz

By: Marty Wentzel

Like Hawaii in general, Maui’s tourism industry has been affected by such travel deterrents as a shaky mainland economy and unsettled world politics. That’s why the Maui Visitors Bureau is going all out to market the destination in 2003, including the introduction of an on-island agent-certification program.

Marsha Wienert, Maui Visitors Bureau executive director, said Maui would finish this year with higher counts than last year’s.

“But given the double-digit decreases realized after Sept. 11, that doesn’t paint a very realistic figure,” she said. It’s more accurate to look two years back. “If we compare 2002 to 2000, Maui, like the rest of the state, will most likely be down in arrivals.”

International travel is dragging down the counts on all the islands, Wienert said. But closer to home, she attributes the slump to general economic concerns among U.S. travelers and the possibility of war.

“We’re seeing continuing hesitance regarding air travel and an increased potential for people to travel by automobiles closer to home,” Wienert said, adding that fewer corporate and incentive groups are booking trips.

Wienert and her team have created a gung-ho promotional program for the coming year.

“After Sept. 11, most of our marketing initiatives were redirected to the U.S. West,” she said. “Beginning in 2003, we will continue to reach out to our base on the West Coast, but you will also see us doing national campaigns.” Charged with marketing the islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai, MVB will target consumers through print and broadcast media.

“We will also be doing more e-marketing with our partners,” Wienert noted. Since travel agents drive most of Maui’s business, Wienert likes to think of them as part of her sales force. “We will update agents on what’s going on here through our quarterly newsletters,” she said. “We’ll give them tools like brochures, videos, posters, direct-mail material and maps to help them close the sale.”

Specialist Program

By the fourth quarter of 2003, MVB will launch a new Maui, Molokai and Lanai specialist program for agents. Called Maui Nui, the first programs will be offered in September and December, available on a first-come, first-served basis to agents who have earned the Hawaii destination specialist certification from the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau. In early 2003, those agents will be notified of the program via direct mail.

Limited to 25 people at a time, the program will host agents on Maui for five days, followed by a visit to Molokai and Lanai either during the same trip or on a return trip. Agents will take part in interactive learning seminars, visit major resort areas, experience attractions and activities and attend niche-market seminars.

At the end of the program, agents will also take a written certification test earning them such benefits as hotel rewards and sales tools. Participants pay for their own air travel to Maui, while on-island transportation, lodging, food and activities are free.

Meanwhile, Wienert said, MVB sales associate Angela Curley will continue traveling around the mainland, educating retail agents and updating them on news from the destination.

MVB will present its popular Destination Maui travel agent training seminars on the mainland. The first seminars of 2003 will take place in Arizona and New Mexico in January and California in February.

Call 800-525-MAUI.