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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Ala Moana to boost marketing to tourists

By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer

Ala Moana Center already boasts itself as the "world's most famous shopping center," but its owner is gearing up to launch a national and international tourism marketing campaign to enhance spending by visitors at the state's largest mall.

In 1999, Ala Moana Center added a level that includes the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and more.

Advertiser library photo • June 11, 1999

Chicago-based General Growth Properties Inc. announced the initiative yesterday as part of a marketing effort to boost visitor spending at 29 of the company's 146 centers.

The move comes as the nation's retail sector contracts, and tourism growth in Hawai'i is projected to slow as the Mainland economy struggles.

Out of $10.3 billion spent in Hawai'i by visitors in 1999, $2.3 billion was spent on shopping, according to the most recent state statistics. General Growth estimates tourists spent more than $1 billion last year at its 29 tourist-oriented centers, representing on average 31 percent of total sales at those centers.

At Ala Moana, which General Growth bought in 1999, tourism accounted for 45 percent of sales last year, the company said.

The company, citing various tourism studies, said shopping remains the No. 1 tourist activity in the United States, while global tourism is projected to grow 5 percent to 10 percent annually over the next decade.

"Clearly, there is tremendous growth opportunity in the tourism shopping category," said John Bucksbaum, General Growth's chief executive officer.

Dwight Yoshimura, general manager of Ala Moana Center, said the mall already does a lot of tourism marketing, but will step up and refine efforts, especially to Westbound visitors.

To head Ala Moana's improved marketing plan, the center recently hired as tourism director Hawai'i-born Grant Kimura, a retail executive most recently with Coach on the Mainland.

General Growth did not disclose its tourism marketing budget, but said Ala Moana and other top visitor-oriented centers will be aggressively promoted at domestic and international travel trade shows, participate in local tourism association marketing and develop partnerships with other tourism-related companies.

"If we can get a Visa customer to come here and go to a Neiman (Marcus) trunk show, that's better for us," Yoshimura said hypothetically. "We have to focus more on partnerships. You got to squeeze every (marketing) dollar that you can."

Ala Moana already partners with various tourism-related businesses and organizations, such as tour operators, hotels, airlines, the state's convention center and the Hawai'i Visitors & Convention Bureau. But Yoshimura said the mall will be looking to strengthen relationships.

Gail Ann Chew, the visitor bureau's vice president of strategic partnerships who has a meeting with Kimura next week, said stronger partnerships with the state's largest shopping center will benefit Hawai'i's tourism industry.

"From a partnership side, I think it's very positive, very wonderful," she said. "Anytime you can share the message of marketing the diversity of things to do — things to see, places to shop, dine, hike and other attractions — gives you just that little bit more advantage."