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Hawaii promoting its 'value' to visitors

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[October 02, 2008]  HONOLULU (AP) -- Hawaii's tourism industry is offering new deals, incentives and packages as it grapples with turbulent airline industry and Americans holding tight to their wallets.

Officials on Wednesday unveiled a $4.5 million campaign to lure visitors for the remainder of the year. The effort is part of the more than $12.5 million in emergency funding that has been devoted by the state and businesses to combat a slump in tourism.

Auto RepairOne key component is promoting Hawaii's value as a destination, which means trying to dispel the perception that the islands have become too expensive.

"It's cheaper to go to Vietnam, Bali and some of these other places like Mexico, but at the end of the day, they come back and say, 'It's not Hawaii,'" said David Uchiyama, vice president of marketing at the Hawaii Tourism Authority. "The value of Hawaii is not only the price point, but it's also the experience."

Officials said despite rising airfares, a Hawaiian vacation package costs less this year by hundreds of dollars compared with last year. Some hotels are offering a complimentary extra night or breakfast and more businesses are offering 2-for-1 deals on activities.

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As part of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau's new winter campaign, advertisements featuring humpback whales, hula dancers and breathtaking scenery will start appearing in newspaper travel sections this Sunday. Targeted search and banner ads will also appear on several Web sites.

Over the past decade, Hawaii has faced many challenges that have taken a toll on tourism, from the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But officials say nothing compares to the multitude of challenges now.

"This is the classic perfect storm," said John Monahan, the bureau's president and chief executive.

Besides the turmoil in the economy, Hawaii this year faced the sudden shutdown of Aloha and ATA airlines, two major carriers serving the islands from the West Coast. The state also lost two cruise ships.

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Visitor arrivals plunged 17.3 percent in August compared with the same month last year, including a record 24.4 percent drop in visitors from the West Coast, according to the latest state figures. Visitor spending also fell 17.6 percent.

Tourism is the No. 1 industry in Hawaii and the economic lifeblood of the islands. A drop-off in visitors affects everything from jobs to tax revenues.

"There's absolutely no silver bullet to make it better," Monahan said. "But to do nothing, to not keep your voice out there, to not tell a revised value message is unconscionable."


On the Net:

Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau: http://www.gohawaii.com/

[Associated Press; By JAYMES SONG]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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