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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 12:23 p.m., Thursday, October 31, 2002

HTA endorses convention center plan

By Kelly Yamanouchi
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Hawai'i Tourism Authority today approved a plan from Philadelphia-based SMG to market the convention center.

Yesterday, the authority's marketing committee recommended the authority authorize a contract to operate and market the center for three and a half years.

The authority also will consider transferring $271,000 for destination services from the SMG budget to the Hawai'i Visitors & Convention Bureau, the marketer of the convention center that has a $4 million annual budget until the end of this year.

The move comes under recently passed legislation that requires one agency operate and market the convention center by Jan. 1.

The tourism authority asked only SMG, the current operator of the convention center, to submit a proposal for marketing the convention center.

SMG's total contract, according to the plan, would run from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2006, subject to a review after 18 months, and would not exceed $14 million for convention center marketing over the term of the contract.

Originally, the tourism authority solicited a proposal for a six-month contract beginning Jan. 1.

But yesterday, authority executive director Rex Johnson said, "We felt that to do any contract for marketing of the convention center it had to be a larger contract.

"Six months makes no sense," because it makes it difficult to hire and start new programs, he said.

The plan also will hold $200,000 for advertising from the SMG budget or half of its advertising budget to use as seed money to develop a business branding advertising program designed to increase business-visitor spending in the Islands.

According to the plan, the total contract would not exceed $7 million for marketing flexibility funds, or $2 million each year. Marketing flexibility funds are typically used to attract events with a large economic impact those that can change perceptions about Hawai'i or for multi-year contracts.

The marketing committee also recommended its staff form a committee to manage the transition of marketing the convention center from the visitors bureau to SMG. The committee would include representatives from the tourism authority, the visitors bureau, SMG and the local travel industry.

Reach Kelly Yamanouchi at 535-2470 or kyamanouchi@honoluluadvertiser.com.