The recently launched campaign highlights discounted air and hotel packages to convince Americans that they can still afford to come to Hawaii despite rising travel costs.
The ads have begun appearing on Internet travel sites such as Travelocity and Expedia as well as the Web pages of major airlines, such as United and American.
The bureau is also buying full-page ads in the Sunday travel sections of West Coast newspapers in addition to radio and television spots in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Hawaii saw a 15% decline in the number of visitors from the U.S. West in April compared with the same month in 2007. Tourism officials blame the steep drop partly on the closures of Aloha and ATA airlines.
Aloha stopped service to and from and mainland March 30, while ATA's last flight was April 3. The closures resulted in the loss of 1.1 million air seats — roughly 15% of the seats between Hawaii and the mainland — and prompted other airlines to raise fares.
The money for the ads comes from a $5 million emergency fund authorized by the legislature to help boost tourism. Overall, visitor arrivals in April fell 8% compared to the same month last year while hotel occupancy dropped to 69.5%, the lowest percentage for any April since 2003.
The visitor numbers are expected to be down 3% overall this year compared to 2007, according to the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
"The concern was that (travelers) were going to shop and see this brick wall of airfares ... and maybe do a drive vacation or ... go to a competitor destination," said Jay Talwar, HVCB's senior vice president for marketing.
He said tourism officials worked with travel wholesalers to offer discounts on airfare inclusive packages. The discounts range from $200 to $1,000.
John Monahan, president of the bureau, said tourism destinations across the country are facing a crisis of rising oil prices that are pushing airfares higher.
"All a destination can do in a crisis like this ... is try to drive demand for your destination," he said.
credited to usatoday and Associated Press