Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

InsightAt the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau's annual membership meeting, held in Waikiki at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Nov. 4, the organization outlined plans to continue its highly successful model of citywide, month-long market media saturations throughout next year.

Organized in conjunction with a range of Hawaii suppliers and wholesalers, the HVCB media blitzes are designed to showcase the destination through print, broadcast, online and electronic billboard advertising and a number of social networking and blogging initiatives over a 30-day period in a target city. Cultural activities, cuisine demonstrations and musical performances are also held at featured events throughout the campaigns.

In 2010, blitzes were held in Hawaii's top three source markets: Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. The HVCB also finished up its first saturation campaign in Chicago this October.

"We did have one travel wholesaler ... that said their Chicago business was up 30% in terms of bookings in the month vs. a year ago," said Jay Talwar, senior vice president of marketing for the HVCB. "They jumped in with the market saturation blitz and are taking full advantage of it, so hopefully we hear more news like that as we go forward in the next few weeks."

Talwar said the strategic marketing blitzes -- first tried in San Francisco during the spring of 2009 -- have played a substantial role in the gradual recovery of Hawaii's visitor industry. And focusing on the state's largest visitor markets not only helped stimulate airlift demand in major West Coast population centers but also maintained important links to the rest of the county.

"If you look at the arrivals to Hawaii by source market, the top three provide as many visitors as [numbers 4 through 25]," Talwar explained. "But we also know that if we lose any of those flights, we don't just lose the seats in that market, but we lose the ability for those who are further east to connect in a convenient way to Hawaii."

Airlift to the state has, in fact, increased significantly in 2010.

"This calendar year vs. last calendar year, we'll have about 550,000 extra air seats coming into Hawaii," Talwar said.

While that increase leaves total airlift still short of the pre-Aloha Airlines and ATA bankruptcy figures, state tourism officials are pleased with the dramatic pickup in only a year's time.

"Our strategy is to make sure there is enough lift here so it is priced at a point where it's reasonable for visitors to get here, for travel agents to put together packages and for the airlines to make money coming here," Talwar said. "Our role is to make sure we get enough seats so we get to that point of equilibrium where it's affordable and profitable."

Although specific dates and locations for the 2011 marketing blitzes have not been released, Talwar said month-long saturation campaigns are scheduled for January, February and March. Meanwhile, another blitz was started in San Francisco at the beginning of November.

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