Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

*logoThe Hawaii Tourism Authority plans to spend an additional $3.4 million to stimulate visitor arrivals from North America, Japan and Australia over the next six months.

"The HTA board understands the need to get additional funds immediately into the marketplace,"said Mike McCartney, HTA president and CEO. "So the marketing committee approved $3.4 million in new initiatives that will increase bookings and travel in the fall and winter months."

The additional funding will be taken from the $10 million Marketing Opportunity Fund created in June. The fund was included in the HTA's 2010 fiscal year budget in hopes of stimulating short-term visitor growth in 2009.

According to David Uchiyama, vice president of tourism marketing for the HTA, a sizeable share of the funding will be used in U.S. markets.

"A good portion of it is going into North America, and the [Hawaii Visitor and Convention Bureau] is formulating their plans for the industry and will be able to come out shortly with what their strategy is," Uchiyama said. "We're looking for short-term programs that are going to yield a return on the investment in the year for the year. But I can’t speak too much about North America because they’re still putting the finishing touches on it."

The HTA released a detailed list of marketing initiatives that will be implemented across Japan in coming months, including TV, print, social networking and mass transit advertising campaigns in some of the country’s largest cities.

Hawaii arrivals from Japan have fallen dramatically since the onset of swine flu in the spring.

"In April we saw an 8.8% increase in arrivals, and we were very optimistic about where the Japanese market was headed," Uchiyama said. "And then H1N1 hit and we saw a substantial drop in May and June, and some of that will carry through to July."

McCartney and Uchiyama traveled to Japan last month to meet with representatives from the country’s airlines, tour operators and travel agent associations looking for input about how and when to begin a revitalization marketing plan.

"But we also heard from them that there was a lot of rebooking activity taking place already, and people were reconsidering their travel plans now that H1N1 has kind of settled down a little bit," Uchiyama said.

"And, anecdotally, we got feedback from the tour operators who were hearing about people being wait-listed in September because the air seat inventory was becoming a problem. We’ve heard that some tour operators have, in fact, started to look at chartering flights to keep up with the wait-list situation."

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