Winning the West 12-4-2002

The Big Island Visitors Bureau's marketing plan focuses on Western agents

By: Marty Wentzel

They say you should fish where the fishing’s good, which explains why The Big Island Visitors Bureau is casting much of its marketing line to Western travel agents and their clients in the coming year.

“The Big Island’s marketing agenda is quite simple,” said George Applegate, Big Island Visitors Bureau’s executive director. “We’re spending our limited marketing resources in those areas that can immediately impact business. The thrust of our plan is directed at the Western U.S., which remains our largest market by far.”

Year-to-date through September, The Big Island’s domestic visitor numbers were up 2.1%, while international arrivals were down 9%, according to data from Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. Barring acts of terrorism or war, Applegate expects visitor arrivals to the Big Island in 2003 to increase slightly over this year.

“Travel patterns should remain the same,” he said, “with vibrant leisure travel from the U.S. West and recovery from the U.S. East.”

First on BIVB’s agenda is a push to drive visitor traffic in late 2002 and the beginning of 2003. In December, the bureau is conducting a Denver media blitz to stimulate destination coverage and drive visitors to United Airlines’ new direct Saturday flights from Denver to Kona.

“The new route starts on Dec. 14 and provides a key link in air service,” Applegate said. “In January we’ll hit the road with our members on a sales blitz to Denver.”

A West Coast media blitz to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland and Oakland is planned for early 2003, with a West Coast sales blitz scheduled for April to encourage wholesale and retail travel agent familiarization tours on The Big Island.

BIVB recently initiated The Big Island Travel Agent Certification program, designed to help agents sell the destination more effectively.

“It’s an on-island program that can be customized to meet a travel agency’s growing need for updated Hawaii information,” Applegate said.

Meanwhile, BIVB is attending next year’s Travel Show in Seattle, Los Angeles Times Travel Show, Phoenix Travel Show and ASTA’s Western Regional and World congresses. It’s advertising in the travel trades, consumer travel magazines and bridal and golf publications. BIVB also is cooperating on ad campaigns with wholesalers.

In other news, Applegate voiced optimism over the impact of the first Big Island Festival, held in late October and early November.

“The festival dates were sandwiched between the Society of American Travel Writers convention and ASTA’s World Congress in Honolulu,” Applegate said. “We enjoyed participation from both groups at the festival.”

Slated as an annual event, the 2002 festival incorporated signature resort happenings along the Kohala Coast with special ones such as the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, Hamakua Music Festival, Bounty of Keauhou culinary festival and Pacific Cup of Free Diving.

The Food Network is producing a one-hour television special on The Big Island Festival and The Big Island Cook-Off, which featured Food and Wine magazine’s 2002 Best New Chefs in America and Hawaii’s culinary stars.

“I would like to see the festival expand to encompass even more lifestyle and cultural events and build on the culinary successes already started,” Applegate said.

The next Big Island Festival is scheduled for Nov. 5-9, 2003.