WOVA Addresses Oahu's Tourism Challenges

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BY TONY BARTLETT

HONOLULU -- Challenges facing Oahu's tourism were outlined at the 12th annual membership meeting of the Waikiki/Oahu Visitors Association.

David Carey, WOVA's 1997 president, said stays are shorter, the first-time mainland market continues to decline and competing destinations outspend Hawaii.

Waikiki's hotel occupancy has declined in each of the last 10 months through January, he noted.

"We have a great product that people have forgotten about with all the promotional competition," he said, referring to the group's limited funding.

"We know the problem isn't price," he said, adding that there are empty airline seats to Hawaii at a $198 roundtrip price from the West Coast.

On the positive side, Carey spoke of Waikiki zoning changes and the $200 million Hawaii Convention Center.

The zoning changes will make it easier for hotels to upgrade and redevelop.

He called on the industry to work together to prepare for and market the convention center, which opens in Waikiki in July next year.

This, he said, will require innovative approaches to transportation and coordination to provide a "seamless" operation.

"WOVA has done "amazing things with limited funds," said Carey, Outrigger Hotels & Resorts' chief executive officer.

"We must continue efforts to leverage the budget and increase membership so we can increase marketing activities."

But he also gave an example of what he believes shows the "significant impact" of limited funding.

He compared Oahu -- which has half the state's hotel rooms -- with Maui's larger tourism budget.

WOVA and the Maui Visitors Bureau both are chapters of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau; each gets $1.3 million in annual state funding.

Although WOVA gets no funding from the City and County of Honolulu, MVB gets additional funding from Maui County -- $2.7 million this fiscal year, for a total of $4 million.

In the past four years, MVB, with a $14.2 million total budget, outspent WOVA, with $4.6 million, he said.

Since 1990, Carey said, revenue per available hotel room on Maui increased 25%; on Oahu, it rose only 18%.

What is worse, he said, Maui started with a higher base in 1990 -- an average daily room rate of $114 a day, compared with Oahu's $95.

According to Janet Clark, WOVA executive director, the group last year leveraged its funding with supplier members to produce a $3.3 million campaign.

Besides WOVA's $1.1 million in marketing funding from the state, another $2.2 million came from supplier partners.

"This enabled us to implement aggressive marketing campaigns reaching more than 370 million consumers and agents," she said.

WOVA's marketing programs for 1997 include:

* A co-op campaign with American Express and more than 30 member suppliers.

It features a six-page insert with destination and supplier information in the April issues of Departures, Travel & Leisure; Food & Wine; Travel Holiday; Sunset, and Reader's Digest.

The program will be supported by newspaper advertising in Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Jose, Calif.

* A 60-second television commercial that will be tested in Los Angeles in late April and will air in major cities this fall.

* Direct mailings to agents and other promotions with suppliers.

* Television shows aimed at promoting Oahu as the "sports center of the Pacific," broadcast through ESPN and other channels.

WOVA will produce nine shows on sports events, including Outrigger Hotels Mountain Tour, Tour O Hawaii, Outrigger Hotels Hawaiian OceanFest and Outrigger's Waikiki King's Race.

* Increased marketing efforts in Japan, including a promotion with McDonald's.

A trade and consumer advertising program in Canada.

Besides Carey, others elected to the 1997 WOVA executive committee were Ron Adams, Aston Hotels & Resorts; Joy Frommer, DFS-Hawaii, which has the state's duty-free concession; Peter Schall, Hilton Hawaiian Village; Peter Tang, Hyatt Regency Waikiki; past president Keith Vieira, ITT Sheraton, and Clark.

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