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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 1, 2002

Kaua'i Visitors Bureau hopes for quick rebound

By Katherine Nichols
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Kaua'i Visitors Bureau hopes to quickly regain its tourism footing this year with more emphasis on its Web site and on the meetings, conventions and incentives market.

With most of the Nawiliwili port call problems solved for the Norwegian Star cruise ship, sister ship Norwegian Wind on its way at the end of this month, and the possibility of new nonstop flights from the Mainland starting this spring, the bureau is hopeful for a year of growth.

More than 1 million people visited Kaua'i last year, leaving the island off just 6.5 percent in total visitor numbers for 2001, Bob Mullins, the new chairman of the Kaua'i Visitors Bureau, said yesterday.

So far this year, January arrivals totaled 68,242, down 11.6 percent from the same month last year.

"We've been through some challenges before, so (after Sept. 11) we hit the ground running," said Kaua'i Visitors Bureau executive director Sue Kanoho. Kanoho noted that Sept. 11, 2001, was the nine-year anniversary of Hurricane 'Iniki.

While the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the ensuing downturn in air travel, delivered a blow to the island's tourism industry, Kanoho said the effect has been less severe than on O'ahu primarily because Japanese visitors account for less than 10 percent of the total visitors to Kaua'i.

The bureau said its marketing budget has not increased this year; it has $2.3 million for marketing to leisure travelers, and $360,000 to attract the meetings, conventions and incentive market. Kanoho said at least $100,000 will be invested in the island's Web site, up from $40,000 last year.

Kanoho also said the bureau has commissioned new photographs of the island and is running smaller ads in more publications that highlight a diversity of activities including family experiences, golfing, adventure travel and romantic getaways.

For the first time, the bureau also will visit both New York and Los Angeles on publicity tours in the same year. In an effort to diversify its market, Kaua'i will continue to put more effort into attracting visitors from the eastern United States.

Visitors from the West Coast make up more than 60 percent of Kaua'i's North American market, Kanoho said.

Beginning June 1 and running through Aug. 31, tour company Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays will begin once-weekly direct service from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Kaua'i on America Trans Air. The flights will supplement United's daily direct flight to Kaua'i. Kanoho also hinted that another carrier might start service directly to the island this spring.