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Best Places Hawaii Reveals Successful Post 9-11 Survival Strategy


Kapaa, Hi - September 17, 2001 - BestPlacesHawaii.com, a Hawaii marketing and technology company with offices located at the Manoa Innovation Center in Honolulu and on the island of Kauai is not unlike many of Hawaii's emerging tech and information-based businesses. On September 11, 2001, the world outlook for this young and very aggressive 17-employee Internet company was changed forever.

"Until today, our company has been operating in an ultra growth mode, focusing only on increasing sales and improving our service and product," says Rob Sanford, CEO and one of three partners. "However," says Sanford, "Over the past few days our thinking has changed. Sure, we still want to grow and prosper, but for today, we want to know how we can help the people in New York and in Washington. How can we give back, how can we support the victims and our fellow Americans? How can we help be a vehicle for positive change and for world peace?"

With those thoughts on their minds and the September 11 images of horror and sorrow constantly placed before them, the three partners came up with a plan. Since the primary resource the company has to offer is the traffic to its website, bestplaceshawaii.com, it was a natural for the partners to ask the question: How can we use our 7 million hits per month and approximately 10,000 user sessions per day (per WebTrends and Wusage server log analysis), to support the victims of September 11, to support America and support the concept of using tourism to create world peace?

After posing these large questions, the company went into "Internet overdrive" and began within hours creating an Internet subsite offering some hopeful answers. The September 11 subsite is accessed by clicking on the American flag located on the Home Page of BestPlacesHawaii.com. The partners are hopeful that a significant portion of the 10,000 daily visitors to the site will make that important click.

After clicking on the American flag, users are then offered the opportunity to help in three distinct ways:

1) They can support the victims by making a financial contribution to the September 11 fund, sponsored by the United Way, the Hawaii Community Foundation and other major partners who have already raised over $38 million. The goal is to help raise additional money for victim relief.

2) People can copy/take for free, an animated "virtual U.S. flag" that they are then encouraged to place within all their email and on their websites. The goal is to spread the American flag along with a sense of Hawaii, to virtually all parts of the Internet and onto everyone's email to demonstrate to the world American allegiance and solidarity.

3) A copy of the Credo of the Peaceful Traveler is available for download and a link is made available to the International Institute for Peace through Tourism. The goal is to educate both the visitors coming to Hawaii and those now in the tourism business about the opportunities available to use tourism as a positive agent of change.

"Even if only a handful of people and businesses are motivated by our message, it will be worth it," says partner and company President Gary Hooser. The partners are hopeful, however, that at least 1% of the 10,000 daily visitors will help support their efforts. Over 30 days that would mean 3,000 virtual American flags were distributed around the world and potential donations of $60,000 at $20 per average donation. 5% participation would mean 15,000 flags distributed and $300,000 contributed.

The prospects for educating tourists and the tourism industry on how they can be agents of change for world peace is the goal most motivating to the partners and their 17 member team. They acknowledge that the immediate catastrophe of September 11 will eventually end and the display of the flags and the raising of money will also slowly fade away, but the value of and the need for achieving a lasting peace in this world will always be with us.

What lies ahead now for this once laid back little Kauai company that is now Hawaii's busiest visitor industry website and the leader in pre-arrival Hawaii bound visitors? How will this emerging information technology company cope with the predicted slump that is sure to hit hard upon the backs of the Hawaii tourism industry?

According to Hooser (who is also an elected member of the County Council on Kauai), "We, like companies all over the United States, will be spending some time, helping and giving back. We will also be focusing on the needs of our wonderful employees and offering them whatever support we can during these particular periods of unusual stress. Within a short time however, we must ratchet back up to Internet speed. Our survival as a business is totally dependent on how well we serve our Affiliate clients who will need our services more now than ever before. We will be following through with the scheduled launch of a brand new Internet marketing product with international applications on January 1, 2002, and will continue moving ahead with the establishment of a new technology company developing software applications relevant to our industry." The company has been designated as a "qualified high technology business" by the State of Hawaii, making its investors eligible for significant investment and R&D tax credits.

Knowing that in an economic downturn, there may be many travel-related businesses that are less optimistic about the future and less prepared for the challenges ahead, the partners are aggressively looking for potential acquisitions. "We are essentially looking for synergy and for opportunity," says Sanford "We have already acquired a wedding services website that is currently in redesign and future prospective acquisitions (or partnerships) might include other media or technology companies who lack our core competencies. We are a profitable Internet marketing company that has figured out how to make a profit without burning through piles and piles of other people's money. In an environment fraught with dot-coms turned to dot-bombs, we think we have something pretty valuable to bring to the table- the ability to increase our clients' and our own revenue stream".

What is the secret to their success and their continuing optimism in the face of what may be a quite daunting future business environment? Sanford says, "We systemized everything. We can now duplicate and replicate our results in any market." Hooser adds, "We have a great team of people who produce an exceptional product that delivers quantifiable results. From the beginning we learned to leverage our resources, stay focused, and know that when you operate on Internet time you cannot afford extended learning curves. The recent events in the short term are a tragedy of immense proportions and there is no doubt that Hawaii's economy will be severely impacted. Don't forget, our business was founded on the island of Kauai. We survived and prospered despite Hurricane Iniki and we can survive and will continue to prosper through this."