Photos: Hawaiian paradise

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  1. Waimea Canyon, Kauai

    Kalalau Valley, on Kauai's west side, is more than 3,000 feet deep and provides stunning panoramic views. Waimea is nicknamed "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific." (John Borthwick / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Honolulu, Hawaii

    Men row their Hawaiian outrigger canoe towards Waikiki beach, with Diamond Head in the background. Outrigger canoes are now used for recreation purposes and to ride the waves, but in times past they were the main means of transportation between the Hawaiian Islands. (Mike Nelson / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. The tranquil waters of Oahu

    Hanauma Bay is one of the finest stretches of beach in the world. (Eric L Wheater / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Surfer's paradise

    Australian Luke Egan competes on Oahu's North Shore, one of the best places in Hawaii to ride the big waves. (AFP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Water colors

    A school of manini fish pass over a coral reef at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Donald Miralle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Wailua Falls

    The beautiful 83-foot tiered Wailua Falls is an easily accessible, must-see waterfall on the island of Kauai. Wailua Falls was first made famous when it was featured in the television show, "Fantasy Island." (James Randklev / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Emerald peaks

    The iconic, towering emerald peaks of the 1,200-foot Iao Needle, stand out in Maui's Iao Valley State Park. (Adina Tovy Amsel / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Historic reminder

    The USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, marks the resting place of many of the battleship's 1,177 crew members who lost their lives during the Attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 by the Japanese. The memorial is the "ground zero" of World War II. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Aloha!

    Hula dancers welcome the sailing crew of a Hokule'a, a canoe, into Kailua Bay. (Ronen Zilberman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The heart of Hawaii

    The sun sets on Honolulu, Oahu's capital and Hawaii's largest, most populous city. (Robert Y. Ono / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Polynesian heat

    Brandon OFueo Maneafaiga, 23, of Waianae, Hawaii balances two flaming knifes during the 13th Annual World Fireknife Championship at the Polynesian Cultural Centre in Laie, Hawaii. (Lucy Pemoni / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Explosive attraction

    People watch from a viewing area as an explosion takes place on Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, in Pahoa, Hawaii. Legend says the volcano goddess Pele dug fire pits as she traveled from island to island looking for a home with her brothers and sisters. She finally settled at Kilauea's summit, where she lives at Halemaumau crater. (Leigh Hilbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Forces of nature

    The Dragon's Teeth are bizarre lava formations eroded by wind and salt spray at Makalua-puna Point. (Karl Lehmann / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Heaven on Earth

    Astronomy observatories are seen on the peak of the snow-covered, Mauna Kea mountain near Hilo, Hawaii. Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano. (Tim Wright / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. On the way to Sainthood

    Tourists walk through a cemetery past the grave, left, of Father Damien at Kalawao, Hawaii. After cancer patient Audrey Toguchi prayed to Father Damien, known for helping leprosy patients in Hawaii, to help her, and her cancer went away, Pope Benedict XVI approved the case in July 2008 as Damien's second miracle, opening the way for the 19th century Belgian priest to be declared a saint. (Eric Risberg / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Cool colors

    Rainbow eucalyptus (Mindanao Gum) trees grow in Keanae, Maui. Once a year, these magnificent trees shed their bark and take on the colors of the rainbow. (James Randklev / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Magic Sands

    An aerial view of La'aloa Beach Park or Magic Sands beach in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The beach is called Magic Sands because when rough surf hits, all of the sand is emptied off the beach and temporarily moved out to sea. (Brian Powers / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 8/28/2009 11:46:20 AM ET 2009-08-28T15:46:20

Selling Hawaii could be considered the easiest job in the world.

"As I tell our team all the time, 'If we blow this job, I don't know what else we can sell,' " said Jay Talwar, vice president of marketing for the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau.

But it hasn't been that easy lately. Hawaii and other tourism-dependent destinations have endured a perfect storm of challenges this year — from economic problems to swine flu fears — and have yet to recover.

Despite steep discounting and unprecedented deals being offered this year, the number of visitors to Hawaii fell by 8.2 percent through July. And the tourists who are coming are staying fewer days and spending less, resulting in an overall drop of $1.1 billion in visitor spending compared with the first seven months of 2008.

The slowdown in travel has forced industry officials to regroup, rethink, roll out new marketing strategies and revise projections. The Hawaii Tourism Authority, which has a $71 million budget for 2010, and its marketing partners will unveil some of their new plans and objectives Friday.

The agency is projecting about 6.7 million visitors in 2010, a 2 percent increase from the nearly 6.6 million forecast for this year. The 2010 estimate is still less than the 6.8 million in 2008, which followed the banner years in 2007 (7.4 million) and 2006 (7.5 million).

Hawaii is expected to see strong growth and demand from the untapped markets of South Korea and China, while other areas are projected to be relatively flat.

Among the new initiatives Hawaii is implementing is a plan to capture the fast-growing clean energy industry by luring meetings, trade shows and conventions to Hawaii. A new Web site is being launched Friday with information about initiatives in Hawaii, which is trying to become a leader in wind, wave, solar and thermal power. The nation's most fossil-fuel dependent state seeks to have at least 70 percent of its energy needs supplied by renewable sources by 2030.

"As a state, we're primed to showcase that to attendees," said Neil Mullanaphy, who represents the Hawaii Convention Center.

Hawaii also is partnering with China CITIC Bank, a major Chinese bank, in creating a Hawaii-themed credit card that will soon be available in the Asian nation. Card holders will receive perks when they travel to the islands.

The Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau, which is charged with marketing Hawaii to North America, plans to continue with its advertising and public relations blitz in key West Coast markets. The campaign features island cuisine, music and culture. The first campaign was held in San Francisco in March, which tourism officials deemed a success.

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About $3 million is being spent on a monthlong campaign in Los Angeles next month, while another event is planned in the Pacific Northwest during the fall.

"Obviously we have come through some extremely difficult times," said John Monahan, the bureau's president and chief executive. "The good news is that there's great demand still for Hawaii. The product is obviously strong, but with the unfortunate times we're facing, motivating people to travel and to spend once they're here is the most difficult part."

Monahan said one thing his agency is not changing is the demographic it is targeting — an active visitor who enjoys golfing, cultural experiences, dining out and spa treatments.

"We have never dropped that focus the entire time," he said. "When we begin to recover, it will bode well for us."

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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