Promoting Maui Abroad
Stepping up the competition for tourists 

by Travis Henderson


Getting the Maui fix, mainland style
Maui Time reader outside a Maui Tacos in Atlanta with a ParadiseMaui.com poster in the window

The economy's up, the economy's down. We're headed for a recession, we're in a bear market, or is it a bull market? Or is it all just a bunch of bull?
Well, unfortunately, it's not a bunch of bull because here on Maui, whether we like it or not, we depend on tourism. When the economy is up, we make money. When the economy goes down, we go with it, all of which makes the competition for tourist dollars so intense.
The majority of people can afford to take one vacation a year, if that. Many of these same people can only afford to go someplace close to home while others can afford to hop a plane and head to an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Here on the Valley Island, there are people who are doing everything they can to make sure that island destination reads: MAUI.
At the Maui Visitors Bureau, the main goal is to get people interested in the island of Maui. While many people might think that the county tourist agencies across the state try to bring in the maximum number of visitors possible, Public Relations Manager Charlene Ka'uhane says that is simply not true. "What we try to do is increase the average spending of tourists. The number of visitors coming to the islands has stayed pretty much the same in recent years, about 2.3 million per year. What has changed is that they're spending more per day. We do this by targeting the 'touring visitor'. This is the kind of visitor who wants to go snorkeling, whale watching, go see luaus, see shows, that sort of thing."
The Maui Visitors Bureau does this through its 1-800 number or through its web site. Visitors to its web site, <www.visitmaui.com>, can get direct links to any number of activity sellers or group guides. A call to 1-800-525-MAUI can get you the "Fulfillment Packet" free of charge and mailed to you within three days. Inside the Fulfillment Packet is the Maui Visitor Bureau's official magazine, a calendar of upcoming events as well as maps to the island. With this packet in hand the incoming visitor already has options before they land, leaving them free to enjoy their visit without being bombarded by tour operators hawking their wares from streetcorners. While an agency like the Maui Visitors Bureau is state-run and state-funded, there are other, independent, operators who take it upon themselves to advertise Maui.
Klaus Bandisch is owner/operator of ParadiseMaui.com, an internet site that sends information about Maui to people all over the world. Klaus started his website because he wanted to spread the word about a place he loved. People would pull up his web site looking for information about things to do, places to stay, and basically, how to have fun on an island far from their home. Realizing that people coming to Maui were often steered in specific directions by activity warehouses who dealt exclusively with one or two companies that grabbed the lion's share of the business, Klaus decided to spread the aloha, so to speak. 
Creating a coupon book that has free coupon placement for local businesses, thereby ensuring the smaller guys get a place in the market as well, Klaus markets the coupon book to visitors on his web site. That way, like visitors to the Maui Visitor Bureau's website, they have a headstart on things to do when they get to Maui. "At <www.paradisemaui.com>, our business is pre-arrival; people book before they come here. That way they're relaxed when they get here and they don't have to walk Front St. and get harassed by anybody."
While it's the visitors who feel stress free by having more options prior to arrival, it's the local, smaller businesses who reap the benefits. "Basically, the people we promote are the people who can't afford to advertise on Channel 7 (The Visitor's Channel). [It's for] The smaller people that do need the help. And I feel that by offering the coupons to people on the mainland, it's just like educating people about wholesale prices before they buy a car, they can come to Maui and enjoy themselves without being harassed. The average visitor to Maui spends about three nights. In those three nights, they don't have time to go looking for deals. There's companies here on this island that promise tourists the world and then they don't deliver. I want to give them a choice."
The coupon books are by no means the beginning and end of Klaus' determination to promote Maui. His next venture is something called eWednesday. While this is nothing new to the mainland, Klaus is the first to try and bring it to the island of Maui. "eWednesday," says Klaus, "is going to be an event where professionals and businesspeople alike can get together and exchange information. It will be a place where somebody that wants to go into business on the internet can show up and meet a marketing person, or a web designer, a programmer, or someone that can help him put his thoughts into reality, without having to pay anything for the meeting."
These meetings are going to be centralized on Maui but Klaus wanted to point out that people from all the islands would be attending. The key concept behind the creation of these "eDays", according to Klaus, both here and on the mainland, is to allow people to get together and discuss things to find out what is real and what is hype concerning the promotion and use of the internet as a business tool. "It's educational because there's so much hype about the internet. People are making claims and trying to get people to advertise for a fee and then they can't deliver. With eWednesday, people can mingle without hesitation; they're going to learn what is truth and what is not. It's just like people who are afraid to fly an airplane, but once you understand how an airplane works, you're not so afraid anymore. People will learn how internet business works and people that need a web site designed will run into talented designers looking for work and so on." 
The first meeting of eWednesday was April 4 and was very successful. Future meetings are tentatively scheduled for the first Wednesday of each month. For time and location, anyone interested can visit the website at <www.paradisemaui.com/ewednesday>.
Going on-line to learn more about your vacation destination is one thing, but what about getting people interested in Maui when they previously had no interest? Enter Mark Ellman, owner of Maui Tacos. 
Originally starting out as a small eatery specializing in Mexican food Maui-style quickly grew into an island-wide chain of restaurants. When the chairman of Blimpies, Inc., a mainland based franchising company, kept returning to eat at Maui Tacos for two years, an idea was born; since everybody wants to come to Maui but not everybody can afford to, let's bring Maui to the mainland.
The first store opened in Atlanta and the number of mainland stores has risen to eleven, with three under construction and deals galore. Someone could be walking along the street in Atlanta, Ga., Dallas, Tx., or even in downtown Manhattan, and they could stumble across a Maui Tacos restaurant that looks just like one you'd find here in the islands. Complete with surf maps, piped in Hawaiian music and a tropical salsa bar, diners might forget, even if just for a little while, the drab and dreariness of their outside lives and think they're in the islands. Which leads me to the question, how do you get mainland people to understand the spirit of Aloha? "I don't think anyone can really understand the Aloha spirit without being in Hawai'i, and by no means are we trying to bring the soul of Aloha to the mainland, but we are trying to bring the spirit of Aloha to the customers," said Ellman.
This goes beyond just utilizing the name of Maui out front of the store, according to Ellman, and it also goes beyond just using the names of local surf spots on the menu. "As soon as someone walks through the doors of a Maui Tacos on the mainland, we want them to feel like they're in Hawai'i. We say 'aloha' and 'mahalo', we tape KPOA surf reports, so every half-hour there's a surf report, even if you're in Texas."
And to make sure that anyone bit by the Maui bug doesn't leave empty handed, each Maui Tacos location has a visitors board, complete with brochures, travel guides, a schedule of upcoming events on Maui and other activity information. Someone might just be looking for a burrito after working out and the next thing they know, they're planning a trip to Maui.
So you have the Fulfillment Packet coming to you from the Maui Visitors Bureau, you have a coupon book in the mail from <www.paradisemaui.com>, and you were just stuffing your face in a Maui Tacos when you hear a cool Hawaiian song on KPOA. You want to hear more, but what do you do? You go to <www.kpoa.com> or <www.knuiam900.com>, that's what.
With the exact same broadcast that we hear on Maui streaming across the internet, the Pacific Radio Group, owners of KPOA and KNUI, reach an estimated 80,000 listeners a month. While 80% of the listeners are on the continental U.S., 15% are in Europe and the other 5% are spread out across the globe. Said Tim Hendricks, Internet Project Manager for the Pacific Radio Group, "We get the majority of our listeners from the mainland, but every month we get the same two listeners from Russia. We have to keep remembering that we're not just reaching the market here on Maui. We have listeners all over the world, be it Russia, or Africa, or wherever. It's amazing." 
Radio station DJ's have even started to incorporate their internet listeners into the broadcast. "Whereas before," says Hendricks, "the DJ would give the weather update for Maui only. Now, he'll say something like 'and if you're listening over the internet, write in and tell us what the temperature is where you live.' Almost immediately, we get e-mails from people in places like Minnesota telling us the weather is -20!"
Not only does it help people learn a little more about the style of life here on Maui, but it's also a good way for people who have been here to stay connected once they leave. "We get all kinds of e-mails from people that have come out here on vacation and liked what they heard on one of our stations. Then they get back home and find out they can listen to that same station and it feels like they were able to bring a piece of Maui home with them", continued Hendricks.
Listeners also have venues to purchase the music of Hawai'i from wherever they call home. Kihei's Tropical Disc have taken a commanding presence on the internet for CD sales and promotion. Owners Gina and David Deeter were able to recognize the impact and reach of the internet early and share the music of Hawai'i with the world. According to Gina, "Music is such a big part of the culture here, and we're finding that it has an international audience. About 25% of our sales are through the internet and about 20% of those are to music fans in Japan and Europe."
So there you have it. People everywhere bemoaning the lack of economic stability, but Maui is still on their mind, whether they like it or not. On the internet, on the radio, in the restaurants, they're constantly reminded that there is a better place for them to be.

* MAUI TIME * Vol.4 Issue #22, April 10, 2001

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