Everybody's got a cousin in Miami...

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…or so goes the Jimmy Buffett song. Now Hawaii’s betting everyone has a cousin-—or at least a professional connection—-with someone in the islands. According to an article from pacific.bizjournals.com, "The Hawaii Convention Center is basing its new sales strategy on the premise that personal connections are better than cold calls. The center is recruiting local businesspeople with connections to national groups as ambassadors to sell Honolulu as a convention destination."

How smart is this? When I was in Indianapolis for the PCMA conference earlier this year, that city also was doing something similar for the medial/pharmaceutical industry by creating a "Bio Brigade" of local folks in the biz to work their connections to bring meetings, and hopefully businesses, to the area.

In the article, Priscilla Texeira, who is heading the center's Hawaii Business Ambassadors program, said, "Everybody in Hawaii belongs to some organization -- church, professional or fraternal -- that have national and international meetings. And just a local businessperson extending an invitation makes a difference between somebody selecting Hawaii versus San Diego or wherever."

In its quest to book at least 34 events per year, SMG Hawaii, which took over the sales and marketing of the center Jan. 1, 2003, from the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, jumped on Texeira’s idea. "Starting July 1, she will be paid $7,000 a month for her commitment to bring in 52 events a year." So far, according to the article, the strategy helped convince the Fuel Cell Seminar's 2006 event from defecting elsewhere, thinking that "Hawaii couldn't be taken seriously as a business destination." Texeira recruited local talent in that area, who emphasized Hawaii’s connection to fuel cell technology.

"The organizers changed their minds and booked their conference for November 2006, and plan to bring 1,500 to 2,000 members.

"Texeira is now working on recruiting at least one local point of contact for each of the 700 national accounts SMG is pursuing."

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