SBJ/20110103/This Week's Issue

Hawaii tourism group renews PGA Tour deal

The PGA Tour will announce this week that it has signed a four-year renewal with the Hawaii Tourism Authority to remain as an official marketing partner.

The HTA has been one of the tour's marketing partners since 2001, and the most recent deal will take the tourism group through the 2014 season. Official partnerships with the PGA Tour can range from the low to high seven figures annually, depending on how much media is included, but the HTA's deal will average $1.75 million a year for the next four years.

Hawaii spends more on tourism than any other state, about $70 million in 2009, according to analysis of state budgets by the U.S. Travel Association.

The state formed the HTA 13 years ago to service the multibillion-dollar tourism industry in the state and it has used the partnership with the PGA Tour as a cornerstone to those efforts. Hawaii features 70 golf courses across its islands, and Kapalua, the site of the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions this week, has hosted the tour's first event since 1999. The tour's second event, the Sony Open, is the following week in Honolulu.

"We will leverage the partnership in a number of ways, but mostly with the warm weather and the beautiful views on TV at a time when many of our key markets are blanketed with snow," said Mike Story, the HTA's tourism brand manager.

Tourism suffered in 2009, Story said, when the number of visitors and their spending dropped, but 2010 has offered "a light at the end of the tunnel," Story said. "We're up, but that's based off of a down year in 2009. But it's been good to see some pick up."

The HTA will use ad units on Golf Channel that come with its marketing package to promote tourism in the state. Several PGA Tour golfers will be interviewed about what they enjoy best when visiting the islands.

Those interviews will be part of an ad campaign that started last year called "Nothing is more exciting than …"

"This partnership does a lot, in terms of guaranteeing Hawaii a level of security with scheduling that is almost impossible to find in this ever-changing world of golf," said NBC and Golf Channel analyst Mark Rolfing, a resident of the state and its unofficial ambassador of golf.

Rolfing's foundation is the host organization for the Hyundai event, which brought back the Tournament of Champions name this season. Rolfing was one of the HTA's original board members and helped arrange the first marketing partnership with the tour in 2001.

"For many years, there was just a single tournament in Hawaii that was mixed in as part of the West Coast swing," Rolfing said. "That just didn't work. Having the two tournaments in Hawaii really is the perfect way to open the season."

Rolfing also believes that returning to the Tournament of Champions name will elevate the stature of the opening event. The tournament formerly carried that name until 1994. It most recently was known as the SBS Championship.

"It will reinforce the importance of winning on tour," Rolfing said. "It's something I've really pounded the drum about ever since Tiger ([Woods] and Phil [Mickelson] skipped the event a few years ago. It wasn't that long ago that the Tournament of Champions really was like the fifth major, and that's where we need to get the tournament back to."

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