With a bold new marketing plan in place, Hawaii is aiming to reach new heights as a meetings destination. In fact, meetings business is already on the upswing, buoyed by the recovering U.S. economy and favorable publicity from Hawaii’s landmark APEC meeting in fall 2011, which was hosted by President Barack Obama and drew world heads of state and business leaders from around the globe.

Hotel occupancies and room rates, which have been rising steadily for more than two years, set new records earlier this year, according to Hospitality Advisors LLC and Smith Travel Research. Occupancies on Oahu reached 90 percent in February, while rates on Maui and Kauai hit 82 percent, and the Big Island hit 78 percent.

That Hawaii is a destination where organizations can get down to business and accomplish goals is a message being broadcast loud and clear from the highest levels on down. Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie recently gave a personal address before attendees at the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems meeting at the Hilton Waikoloa Village in Waikiki to address criticism the organization received for choosing Hawaii.

“Hawaii stands on its own merits as a premier location to host meetings and conventions,” Abercrombie said. “And when it’s done in Hawaii, planners are assured of the value they are getting. They know their events will be invigorating while allowing attendees to relax, think clearly and, most importantly, fulfill their business objectives.”

Meet Hawaii
Designed to carry the message further, Hawaii’s statewide sales and marketing efforts have undergone a major restructuring. A new entity called Meet Hawaii launched in January, which included the merger of the sales teams from the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) and the Hawaii Convention Center. Meet Hawaii is overseen by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), which provides funding and tactical support.

Comprising Meet Hawaii’s leadership are Brian Lynx, vice president–meetings, conventions and incentives of the HTA; Karen Hughes, vice president of Meet Hawaii and travel industry partnerships; and Randall Tanaka, interim general manager of the Hawaii Convention Center. Hughes is assuming the responsibilities held by Michael Murray, who left the HVCB in March to become executive vice president of Waikiki Beach Activities.

Other initiatives include an enhanced website, MeetHawaii.com, where planners can utilize online sales tools, gather data about Hawaii’s meeting resources, contact suppliers and issue RFPs for services and products.