Visitors bureau changes name, will close Hilo office

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Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct a quote by bureau Executive Director Ross Birch. Birch said merging all eight bureau employees together is hoped to “increase efficiencies by at least 40 percent.”

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Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct a quote by bureau Executive Director Ross Birch. Birch said merging all eight bureau employees together is hoped to “increase efficiencies by at least 40 percent.”

The Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau is closing its Hilo office next month.

The tourism promotion organization — known as the Big Island Visitors Bureau until this past summer — is moving its four Hilo-based employees to a larger space next to its current location in The Shops at Mauna Lani just north of Waikoloa.

Merging all eight bureau employees together is hoped to “increase efficiencies by at least 40 percent,” said executive director Ross Birch. Currently, the bureau bases most of its administrative staff in Hilo and its sales employees at the Mauna Lani location.

“It’s mainly for productivity,” Birch said. “(It’s) the flow of those who are out on the road on sales coverage in one specific office and (maintaining) the ability to keep paperwork moving as needed, rather than bouncing back and forth between two offices.”

The lease at the Aupuni Street office in Hilo expires at the end of November, Birch said. The move is slated for mid-November.

The bureau has operated with a Hilo location for decades, but Birch said a consolidation — to “have the team in one location” — has been in discussion for several years.

With time, the bureau’s “objective and role” changed to now focus entirely on “pre-arrival marketing” rather than “post-arrival information and activities” as it once did, Birch said. Every other Neighbor Island visitors bureau operates with one office, he added.

“We focus on marketing to the destination,” Birch said. “ … We create the awareness, desire and intent of someone to travel.

“So, although we won’t have an office here in Hilo, we will still market the destination as an entire island, and we focus at least 30 percent of our time and effort (marketing) Hilo.”

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Birch said the bureau changed its name in June to “take our real official name of the island” and clear up confusion between the Big Island and Oahu. Market research indicates some who’ve never visited Hawaii confuse the two islands, he said.

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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