I can’t help it but the media is focusing too much on war. Not that the issue is not important but the priority should have the well being of “we the people.” That’s why we fight this war, to improve our lives and living conditions.

The unfortunate implications are that our state, which depends heavily on tourism, is directly affected by the military activities in the Middle East. But it shouldn’t. Somehow a false fear has been created in the public’s minds that travel has become more dangerous through anticipated terror attacks.

Let’s please be realistic. After the saddening and unthinkable 09/11 events no incident has occurred that supports any such concern. Still travel is down and confidence is low. Why and what can we, Hawaii do, to offset such opinion and revitalize our sluggish economy that depends so much on tourism?

First of all there is no war on American soil. The world sentiment seems to become increasingly anti-American. That tells us that world travel by Americans has become more limited. That provides an incredible advantage for mainland travelers to Hawaii. World surveys show that travelers are less concerned about the war but more about terror activities.

Thus we should not only prioritize the U.S. mainland as main target market but need to send a ”’loud”’ and ”’clear”’ message to the world, to our main target markets, that Hawaii is ”’safe.”’ The world already knows it’s beautiful. This message should be repeated as often and decisive as even possible. According to the newest demographics released by the World Travel Organization, world travel is as strong as ever. Only destinations are being avoided that are directly impacted by this war. Hawaii is not, but still travel is down.

Let’s take a close look at other destinations that are competing with us. For example there is New Zealand, Mauritius, Barbados and other tropical spots that are reporting record numbers in arrivals and pre bookings despite the situation in Iraq. These countries are profiting through intelligent marketing strategies that also take in consideration the diversified mentalities and cultural differences of targeted markets. Austria is even providing regular ”’direct flights”’ to Australia and New Zealand.

Hawaii missed the tremendous opportunity to promote our beautiful Aloha State as ”’secure”’ at the world largest and important travel and tourism fair, the ITB in Berlin, Germany. The Hawaii Visitor and Convention Bureau were present but wasted its ill-advised efforts.

The world, except Hawaii, was heavily courting — as every year — the German speaking market that is undoubtedly the most important travel force the world knows. Every year the European Travel Industry decides (here) on travel destinations for coming seasons. Hawaii was unconvincing.

It is no use pointing fingers. However, immediate and intelligent actions can still turn this situation to Hawaii’s benefit. I am totally against sending a Hawaii Delegation to any target market, including Japan. At a later time perhaps.

Instead Hawaii must invite the influential managers from target markets that make decisions on world travel destinations for European and other travelers. And we should ”’court”’ and treat them with the utmost aloha spirit, our most effective marketing tool. The main message should be ”’safety.”’ The invitations should come from our governor.

And while they are here we should find out what promotional strategies they recommend Hawaii should implement to support and win over Europe and others again. Perhaps sending a delegation from the Polynesian Cultural Center would be advisable.

Hawaii must also invite and ”’court”’ the important world travel media for our world target markets to decisively report through P/R and ”’real reporting”’ about Paradise Hawaii and our ”’safety.”’ Hawaii, in the world, is not considered part of the (continental) USA and very unique in culture. We need to emphasize on that.

Short or medium impact will depend on how quickly Hawaii can begin with intelligent marketing. It is ill advised to cancel advertisement during war. Never leave a market totally alone. Stay there, reduced, but continue to advertise. Never stop entirely. But that only applies to markets where advertisement works. Not so in Europe. Europe’s travel mentality does not respond too well to commercial advertisement. P/R, Real Reporting, Real News, Real Stories spiked with positive reporting about ”’safety”’ and Paradise Hawaii are well perceived.

We need to target all former East Bloc Countries (they have been deprived of travel and are eager to do so) Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Italy and the U.K. We need to organize direct flights from Europe. That cuts travel time in half and prevents terror fear because no US airlines are utilized.

The lack of qualified and intelligent marketing strategists has so far slowed down much needed progress. In summary if we decisively promote Hawaii as the place we are, ”’safe”’ and ”’desirable”’ and repeat that message as often as even possible we will succeed.

”’Dieter Thate is owner of Kimapa Marketing (est. 1982) and Dieter’s Tours (est. 1993) And can be reached via email:”’ mailto:mail@kimapa.com ”’or visit his web site at:”’ http://www.kimapa.com

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