Vying for Visibility

Molokai Visitors Association's efforts help Molokai gain exposure and increase visitor totals

By: Marty Wentzel

With its rural ambience and limited number of accommodations, Molokai traditionally hosts fewer visitors than most of the islands. But thanks to a stepped-up effort by the Molokai Visitors Association, it recently has been outshining such high-profile neighbors as Oahu and The Big Island by showing significant gains in visitor counts.

Year-to-date through September, Molokai’s total arrivals were 30.6% higher than during the same time period in 2001. The number of guests arriving from the mainland grew by 23.5%, according to a report from the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

From January to September 2000, Molokai’s total arrivals were 45,446. This year that figure jumped to 72,146.

Sandy Beddow, Molokai Visitors Association director, points to several reasons for her island’s increase in visitor numbers over the past two years, including what she called an overall yearning among clients for a peaceful, relaxing destination.

“I believe that today’s travelers are looking for a safe place to visit,” Beddow said. “They want a destination that is family-oriented, with plenty of things to do for all ages.

“They also want a quiet place without traffic problems and large crowds,” she added. “They want a place whose residents are friendly and responsive to visitors. We are all of those things. That’s the message we are taking on the road.”

One of the Visitors Association’s most important marketing efforts is its participation in the Maui Visitors Bureau’s travel agent seminars on the mainland. Called Destination Maui, Molokai and Lanai, the seminars reach as many as 800 agents per trip.

“Surprisingly, there are still many travel agents out there who do not know anything about Molokai,” Beddow said. “The Destination events, combined with our media blitzes, have been very successful and well-received.”

In the past year the Molokai Visitors Association has drummed up some good press for the island, something Beddow said has made a positive impact on visitor counts.

“This is an island that you really have to see in order to sell, so the more writers and travel agents we can bring over, the better,” she said.

Also impacting travelers this year has been the association’s distribution of Molokai posters to travel agents, who use them in window displays and for special promotions.

The May 2001 start-up of regular ferry service between Maui and Molokai has helped the island gain exposure among visitors to the popular Valley Isle. “Since the ferry started running, we have been promoting day trips to our island,” Beddow said. “This has gone extremely well.”

A large percentage of day-trippers from Maui have expressed an interest in returning to Molokai for more than one day, she said.

Operated by Island Marine, the 149-passenger ferry the Molokai Princess makes the 23-mile crossing from Lahaina, Maui to Kaunakakai, Molokai in about one hour and 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, the Molokai Visitors Association recently entered into a contract with Paradise TV on Maui. Six times a day, the visitor channel is running a five-minute segment about Molokai.

“Soon we will be doing some advertising as a tag to the end of the segment,” Beddow said. “We hope that by encouraging Maui visitors to come see us, they will add stays on Molokai to their plans when they return to Hawaii.”

Call 800-800-6367.