MVB launches ‘next generation’ program

WAILUKU – While Maui is known for beaches and natural beauty, first-time visitors may not be aware of the other jewels of the island, including the art, culture, food and people, tourism officials said Thursday.

“They want something besides that (scenery). You can only lay on a beach for so long,” said Terryl Vencl, executive director of the Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau.

To showcase Maui and to distinguish it from the other islands that also have beautiful beaches and tropical settings, the Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau has launched the “Maui Mavericks” campaign. It showcases 16 Maui County residents, including famed chef Sheldon Simeon and local entertainer Napua Greig-Nakasone. Others farm taro, make kapa, brew up craft spirits and produce food and fashion specialties.

The Mavericks, who are the “next generation” of leaders and specialists, will be put in the spotlight to be interviewed by members of the media and to serve as ambassadors of Maui, Vencl explained.

“The Maui Mavericks campaign offers a modern take on what makes Maui such an incredible destination as told through our next generation,” said Vencl during a news conference in Mayor Alan Arakawa’s conference room in the Kalana O Maui building Thursday morning. “Maui may be known for its beaches and natural beauty, but news outlets in New York or Texas may not see further than that.

“This campaign showcases the diversity and aloha spirit of our best and brightest and sends them out into the world as ambassadors of the island we love.”

Arakawa said that he has known some in the group since they were children. “I’m just so happy to have this up-and-coming generation speaking of Maui in ways that maybe we haven’t spoken before,” he said.

With sugar phasing out, the island should place an emphasis on tourism and “put a better feel on it” through the new marketing effort, he added.

The campaign, which will be rolled out over the next two years, will focus on Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, Chicago, Denver, New York and Vancouver, Canada. These cities have direct or easy access to Maui by air. Tourism officials said that North America makes up 92 percent of Maui’s travel market.

The new campaign comes on the heels of Maui island setting a new record for visitor arrivals in 2015 – 2,527,204. Last year was the first time more than 2.5 million visitors came to the Valley Isle. Maui County’s core West Coast market saw arrivals up 7.7 percent last year compared to 2014 to 1,266,728. East Coast visitors to Maui County rose 3.3 percent to 675,646.

The campaign will not use typical advertising methods with photographs in magazines and newspapers; the Mavericks will be featured on television shows, including the Maui episode of “Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking.” The show will feature taro farmer Hokuao Pellegrino and will air on PBS Hawaii (Channels 10 and 11) at 7 p.m. Saturday, said Rebecca Pang, senior account supervisor with Anthology Marketing Group on Oahu, which works with the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.

San Francisco’s KGO-TV’s “Bay Area Life” also will have some segments featuring the Mavericks. The show can be found online at abc7news.com/bayarealife.

While age was not a factor in choosing the Mavericks, many are in their mid-20s to mid-40s, encompassing most of the age of the millennials, one of the MVCB target segments.

“The primary focus is on avid travelers who have never been to Hawaii,” Pang said in an email. “Based on our extremely high satisfaction rating (more than 90 percent of visitors would recommend Hawaii to friends and family), it is key to get travelers to Maui for the first time. When they come once, they tend to repeat – for weddings, honeymoons, girlfriend getaways, family vacations, etc.”

Perry Bateman, executive chef of Mama’s Fish House in Kuau, is one of those featured in the campaign. He is honored to showcase Maui and the longtime award-winning restaurant that has been supporting fishermen, farmers and ranchers since its start.

“When you support the resources, the island become more sustainable,” Bateman said.

Mama’s Fish House uses fish caught by local fishermen and is now working with third-generation fishermen whose families have been doing business with the restaurant for decades.

“They (Mama’s Fish House) are the pioneers from farm-to-table,” said Bateman, 45, who worked his way up to top chef. He even did landscape work when he began with the restaurant in 1987.

Simeon, who gained fame as a finalist on Bravo Network’s “Top Chef: Seattle,” will talk about Maui’s and Hawaii’s multicultural background, which flavors the island and his food.

“Mix ‘um up, put them together like a luau plate and make it (delicious),” Simeon said.

Simeon, 33, who grew up in Hilo, has lived on Maui for 14 years and is a graduate of the former Maui Community College (now University of Hawaii Maui College) and its culinary program. He currently is the executive chef of Mala Wailea and Migrant and founder, owner and chef of Tin Roof.

Dustin Tester, a graduate of Seabury Hall, will share her love of surfing with the media and North America. The founder and director of surf camps and Maui Surfer Girls said she likes to empower girls and women through surfing.

Tester, 42, has surfed the large waves at the famed surf spot known as “Jaws” at Peahi and offers surf lessons in Ukumehame.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.