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Sherry Duong, the new executive director for Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau (MVCB), is an 18-year Maui tourism veteran. Most recently, she served as the MVCB’s director of conventions, meetings and incentives and international sales. In her new role, Duong is leading the bureau’s charge as it promotes travel to the islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai, dubbed Maui Nui.
We recently caught up with Duong to find out what travel agents can expect now that she has taken over the helm at MVCB.
What challenges does Maui tourism face?Maui Nui is competing with global destinations that are constantly upgrading their infrastructure and marketing efforts. This makes it necessary for us to seek more creative ways to keep Maui top of mind.
How do you plan on driving more demand for Maui? We will drive demand through a variety of activities, including continued education and training for the travel trade community. We’ll look for opportunities to capture the attention of potential visitors who are a good fit for Maui Nui, and we’ll continue to maintain a robust marketing effort for the three islands. We’ll integrate this campaign through our social media channels to increase our reach to new visitors.
How has Maui's visitor profile changed in recent years? We’ve seen a tremendous rise in the more adventurous or experiential traveler. Maui has so many unique and great outdoor activities that people want to experience. In response, a lot of sports, cultural and eco-agricultural activities are springing up around the island, to the delight of our visitors.
What specific types of travelers will you target with your marketing efforts?We hope to increase arrivals by targeting free independent travelers (FITs). FITs comprise a relatively new visitor category, brought about by the changing landscape of world travel over the last decade or so. FITs tend to avoid mass tourism. They are usually enthusiastic, off-the-beaten-track explorers with a thirst for experiencing the real thing, both culturally and environmentally. They typically spend more money and leave less of a footprint on our island resources. We’re targeting them by communicating the qualities of our brand through both traditional and social media channels.
What can travel agents expect from the MVCB now that you are its executive director?We will continue to educate the travel trade community through increased training opportunities via webinars, fams and our Island Specialist program. An increased engagement with our agents and planners will lead to new trained and certified agents and will reach additional planners. They, in turn, will promote Maui Nui as a leading destination.
How is 2016 shaping up in terms of Maui’s numbers?Maui is a mature destination, so it’s great to see continued year-over-year growth in arrivals and spending for the first half of 2016. Overall, we’re extremely pleased to see Maui Nui doing well thus far, and we anticipate a solid second half to the year. It’s a testament to the strength of the Maui brand and quality of the vacation experience found here.
Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureauwww.hvcb.org