The September 11th attack
Business leaders preparing tourism marketing plan
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By Susan Hooper
Advertiser Staff Writer
Tourism leaders expect to have a marketing plan ready by the end of this week aimed at reviving the state's top industry, which has seen a drastic decline in visitors and widespread worker layoffs since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the East Coast.
The cost of the marketing plan and its specific financing source is yet to be determined. But several at a meeting to discuss the issue said finding the money, which could be as much as $20 million, was less of an immediate priority than creating the plan.
"The idea is to come out very quickly with a plan ... that all the various members of the community ... can participate in, and we can maximize the efforts and come out with a unified campaign and put it into effect efficiently," said Peter Schall, senior vice president and managing director of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa, after a special meeting yesterday of the Hawai'i Tourism Authority's marketing committee. Schall is chairman of the committee.
Schall also is a leader of a committee appointed last week by Gov. Ben Cayetano to revamp the state's tourism marketing plan in light of the attacks in which terrorists hijacked four commercial jets and flew two of them into the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon. A fourth plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania.
Thousands died in the catastrophe, which terrified the flying public and crippled the airline industry. Hawai'i's tourism industry has been particularly affected, because virtually all of its tourists come to the state by plane.
Schall told the committee the elements he would like to see in the plan include:
Creation of new activities and events on all islands.
Creation of an "Aloha Pass" that would give visitors free entrance to nonprofit attractions such as the Waikiki Aquarium, the Honolulu Zoo, the Honolulu Academy of Arts and the Bishop Museum.
Development of "Hawaiian Dollars," which would give visitors discounts to shops, restaurants and attractions.
The goal of the marketing campaign, Schall said, is to "communicate a unified message that people should come to Hawai'i now and here are all the benefits. Our job is to put people back to work."
The authority's marketing committee invited representatives of various segments of the tourism industry including airlines, hotels, retail, restaurants and entertainment to speak at yesterday's meeting.
Several told of a slowly improving tourism picture since the days immediately following the attack. But, they warned, Hawai'i's key industry is still very much at risk.
"Our commitment (to Hawai'i) remains," said Tom Renville, managing director in Hawai'i for United Airlines, who said United has cut few flights to Hawai'i since Sept. 11. Renville said the number of passengers on United's Hawai'i flights now are at "reasonable levels" planes to Hawai'i are 60 to 70 percent full, whereas before the attack they were 90 to 95 percent full.
But he cautioned that the carrier will have to make changes if tourists lose interest in Hawai'i.
"The bottom line for the airline is demand," Renville said. "We're going to keep that commitment as long as we can. But at some point, if demand does dwindle, we will have no choice."
Reach Susan Hooper at email@example.com or 525-8064.