KOHALA-- Hotels on the Big Island's Kohala Coast started marketing
the destination for meetings and incentives several years ago.
By spreading guests and functions among the properties, along
more than 20 miles of coast north of Kona Airport, the area can
seek larger pieces of business. The move is paying off.
The meetings and incentives business is up 25% this year, according
to the Kona Kohala Resort Association (KKRA), which has eight
Last January, Kohala hosted its largest group ever, Pepsi's
100th anniversary celebration, with 4,000 participants staying at
all hotels. Entertainment included the Rolling Stones, the "Lord of
the Dance" troupe and Ray Charles. George Bush and Margaret
Thatcher were keynote speakers.
The highway from the airport was lined with Pepsi banners; hotel
lobbies, grounds and vehicles were adorned with Pepsi signage, and
golf courses sported inflatable soft-drink cans.
Roberts Hawaii, Pepsi's ground transportation company, wrapped
23 motorcoaches in vinyl, representing Pepsi products. The
1,241-room Hilton Waikoloa Village, the coast's largest hotel and
the gathering's headquarters, installed a pavilion tent, covering
almost two acres, for the entertainment. "Pepsi put the destination
on the map," said Vicky Kometani, the Hilton's marketing director.
We have the experience and have shown we can do it. Kohala can be a
convention center without walls," she said.
Other groups also have used a number of hotels.
In May, the candle company PartyLite flew in 2,600 sales people
for a 25th anniversary event. This was followed by a group of more
than 1,500 customers of PlaceMakers, a New Zealand distributor of
wood, masonry and hardware products.
Also this year, Kohala's group business has included Nike,
Chevrolet, Compuware, MCI and Sony.
Kometani said hotels started joint efforts to attract larger
groups several years ago. She explained, "As a hotel, we realized
that to be successful in the meetings market, we would have to sell
the destination first. We do not have an identity like Waikiki.
There is power in joining together."
Through membership in the Big Island Group, an advertising and
marketing organization, Kohala has placed ads in meetings magazines
that appear next to those of Waikiki's Hawaii Convention Center,
which officially opened in July.
"We're not just a pre- and post-convention destination," said
Thos Rohr, KKRA president. "We have the facilities to handle
meetings of all sizes and the airport to handle all arrivals,
especially international flights."
The Big Island is the only neighbor island that can handle fully
loaded, wide-bodied takeoffs. In late 1993, Kona Airport's runway
was extended from 6,500 feet to 11,000 feet. In June 1996, Japan
Airlines started nonstop Narita-Kona service with three flights a
week, and increased to daily service last November; and the same
month, United augmented its daily San Francisco-Kona service with a
daily Los Angeles-Kona flight. Consequently, this year the island
is enjoying double-digit eastbound visitor increases, while
Hawaii's Asian markets and seats from Asia plummet.
The Big Island is also leading the islands in visitor growth
from North America.
Although statewide hotel occupancies declined, Kohala managed a
2.5 percentage point occupancy increase, to 71.8%, for the first
seven months of the year, according PKF-Hawaii, a CPA and
management consultancy firm. Also during the period, Kohala
properties increased their average room rate 8.7%, to $215.34,
compared with last year's first seven months.
The Kohala Coast's eight hotels have a total of 530,000 square
feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space. Kohala has seven
championship golf courses and 66 tennis courts. Activities include
sailing; scuba; deep-sea fishing; sightseeing and helicopter tours;
hiking and jogging trails, and horseback riding.
Kona Kohala Resort Association
Phone: (800) 318-3637
Fax: (808) 886-1044
Hotel space not a problem on Big Island
KOHALA--The Kohala Coast has Hawaii's largest concentration of
Resorts and properties--all north of Kona Airport--are:The 1,800-acre Mauna Kea Resort.
Its 310-room Mauna Kea Beach Hotel reopened in December 1995
following a $35 million renovation. The 350-room Hapuna Beach
Prince Hotel opened in 1994.The 3,200-acre Mauna Lani Resort. The 350-room Mauna Lani Bay
Hotel and Bungalows reopened Aug. 1 last year after a $10 million
renovation. The Orchid at Mauna Lani, with 540 rooms, completed a
$10 million renovation in 1996. Sheraton became the operator in
March 1996 following the hotel's purchase. Formerly the
Ritz-Carlton Mauna Lani, it is a Sheraton Luxury Collection
property.The 500-acre Waikoloa Beach Resort. The 1,241-room Hilton
Waikoloa Village has the coast's largest meeting facilities,
including a ballroom that holds up to 2,800 people. More than $30
million has been spent on renovations since 1993, when the former
Hyatt Regency Waikoloa was purchased and Hilton became operator. In
September, the 545-room Royal Waikoloan Hotel, the only
moderate-category hotel on the coast, was purchased by Outrigger
Enterprises, parent of Outrigger Hotels & Resorts. A $20
million renovation is planned.North Kona. The 243-room Four Seasons Resort Hualalai opened in
1996, part of the 700-acre Hualalai Resort. Nearby Kona Village
Resort completed an $8 million renovation in 1996.