First Hawaii liaison outlines priorities

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HONOLULU -- Hawaii's first tourism liaison, Marsha Wienert, said among her initial priorities will be to increase airlift to all islands, and define and implement performance measures for the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Weinert, who was appointed by Gov. Linda Lingle last week and will assume the position July 1, also said she will focus on developing the administration's tourism legislative package for the 2004 session and advise the governor about how to most effectively market and operate the Hawaii Convention Center.

Wienert, in laying out her goals, chose the Travel Weekly Leadership Forum here to make her first public address.

Wienert, who has been director of the Maui Visitors Bureau since 1994, is said to be the first cabinet-level state official in the country charged with examining the direction and strategy of the visitor industry on a statewide level.

The consensus is that the governor chose "someone who understands how tourism impacts all industries" and how decisions in the legislature impact the destination, said Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau President Tony Vericella.

Wienert thanked the group of about 200 top wholesalers, retailers, airline representatives and tourism leaders gathered at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and asked for their help and guidance. "We will be inclusive because I will rely on all of you," she said to a standing ovation.

She dismissed any overlap between her position and that of Vericella or Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO Rex Johnson. Instead, her day-to-day access to the governor will help the many components of the $10 billion industry that drives this state function more smoothly. "Rex and Tony will be my right and left arms," she said.

Wienert's statements about inclusiveness rang especially true for Tim Irwin, CEO of Pleasant Holidays, who suggested the state create a Hawaii Tour Operator Organization to give a voice to the companies that bring an estimated 2-3 million people to the Islands each year through wholesaler packages.

"We can't wait for the state's tourism plan to see if we fit into it; we must play an active part from the very beginning," said Irwin. "We must all work together; there must be a better coordination of plans and marketing dollars." He also asked the state to base its cooperative efforts on the productivity of its best partners.

While Irwin called for more voice in the planning process, he also said that "Hawaii is coming back faster and stronger," a sentiment shared by other leaders in sessions bathed in optimism and survivalist strategies.

Even talk from the airlines was upbeat. For example, United's John DeNardo reported that 162 of the carrier's flights, including 24 daily nonstops to Hawaii, will return to the marketplace next week.

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