Makeke enjoys increase in participants, attendance

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LIHUE -- The third annual Hawaii Travel Makeke, which was held here at the Kauai Marriott Resort, attracted 243 participants, including 80 buyer companies. Attendance was up by about 10% compared with last year.

Now well established as Hawaii's own travel exchange, it was held in early June, a departure in timing from last year, when it was held in April. The date for the show was pushed back so that most hotels, attractions and activities would have 2000 rates in place and would be ready to talk business.

Operators had pushed for the later Makeke (which means marketplace in Hawaiian), but there was a downside: The event was held less than three weeks after the Travel Industry Association's International Pow Wow show in Miami.

"We knew we would have fewer international buyers, but we had more from the U.S. and Canada," said Jerry Picolla of Moraga, Calif.-based Picolla International, the event's organizer. "Hopefully, next year we will get a better spread," he said, explaining that a month will separate the two events next year.

The first Makeke was held in early May 1997 on Maui. Last year's was on the Big Island in mid-April. Next year's Makeke will be in June on Oahu.

This year, the breakdown was two-thirds U.S. and Canadian buyers and one-third international, compared with a 50-50 ratio last year. Wholesalers such as Gogo Worldwide Vacations, Blue Sky Tours, Runaway Tours and Alaska-based Hawaiian Vacations participated for the first time.

Said Bryan Murphy, vice president of marketing at Gogo, "Last year, it was way too early. Now most hotels have prices and are ready to give contracts. Makeke allows you to see attractions and smaller hotels that you have no time to see, and this is the time for site inspections, so it is perfect timing."

Bob Froio, Pleasant Holidays' product director for Hawaii and groups/incentives, agreed. "We have conducted business here because properties have rates," he said. "Makeke is great. You bond with competitors, find out what is going on. Hawaii is different. Everyone is family here."

Maui-based Royal Hawaiian Holidays, a new Hawaii wholesaler, had a sellers booth as a receptive tour operator for international operators. Trish Harding, vice president, said she would have liked more international buyers, but Makeke was too close to Pow Wow. However, she added, "it is well organized. They have done a good job."

Before it was over, she had three verbal contracts -- from Australian, Canadian and U.K. operators.

Ann Egami, sales and marketing director at the 250-room Waikiki Parkside Hotel, said her second Makeke was better. "Last year, we started from scratch," Egami said. "We got more appointments this year and new business. Pow Wow is cost-prohibitive for a small independent hotel, and this is an opportunity we would not otherwise have."

Freckles Smith of Smith's Boats, which operates cruises on Kauai's Wailua River, and operator of the Tropical Paradise Luau during the event, received relatively few initial appointments. But he told his staff not to worry. Exposure came from participants attending his luau, he said. (Others who sponsored evening functions included the Kauai Marriott, the Kauai Visitors Bureau and American Hawaii Cruises' Independence; Travel Weekly sponsored lunches.)

This Makeke was the first for Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park, a $14 million water theme park that opened at Kapolei, Oahu, on Memorial Day. Jerry Pupillo, director of sales, said he was able to meet with many more buyers than he expected. "It was very beneficial. I did not think it would be when I first walked in," he said.

Frank Alexis, general manager of Dream Cruises in Honolulu, was able to nearly double his existing appointments. "This is the way the little guy can go to [a] Pow Wow," he said. "And it is going to be better for us next year because it is going to be on Oahu."

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