InsightDespite concerns over a potentially slowing U.S. economy, the prevailing tone at the end of this year's Hawaii Tourism Conference, held Aug. 10 and 11 at Honolulu's Hawaii Convention Center, was one of optimism as officials outlined regional marketing plans for next year.

David Uchiyama, vice president of brand management for the Hawaii Tourism Authority, began the Aug. 11 session with a list of issues his organization is watching closely, chief among them rising oil prices, Hawaii hotel refinancing and the slowing of the domestic economy.

It didn't take him long, however, to point out several promising airlift figures. Through July, more than 9.1 million available air seats were scheduled to the state -- nearly 460,000 more than during the same period in 2008. Although Hawaii is still short of the airlift totals it enjoyed before the demise of Aloha and ATA, Uchiyama said a considerable amount of those losses have been made up.

He also praised the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau's month-long, citywide saturation efforts.

"We made an investment of roughly about $7.5 million into North America, and as of just May, that effected 91,000 incremental arrivals," which brought about $130 million into the state, Uchiyama said.

In his presentation outlining the HVCB's 2011 marketing plan for North America, Jay Talwar, the organization's senior vice president of marketing, made it clear those month-long blitzes would be back next year, and cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle would again be targeted for the organization's now-familiar 30-day advertising and event-heavy saturation campaigns.

"The numbers are very positive from these efforts," Talwar said. "We are getting more people coming to Hawaii, we are driving demand to maintain lift to the state and are now starting to expand that lift to the state. ... We think it's a great tactic for us to take, and we've put it in our 2011 plan to make sure that we keep this positive momentum going."

Many of the morning's marketing presentations echoed that notion of positive momentum. That momentum seems to have grown enough that it's prompted some recalculation of the state's arrivals and spending projections for this year and 2011.

According to Uchiyama, HTA officials are now expecting nearly 6.9 million arrivals during 2010, an increase of more than 140,000 from the organization's earlier target figures.

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