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By Craig DeSilva

HONOLULU, Hawai‘i (January 3, 2000-PIDP/CPIS)---Honolulu public relations firm The Limtiaco Company has been awarded a one-year contract by the Yap Visitors Bureau to promote the Micronesian island state’s budding tourism industry.

The Limtiaco Company this month has begun a media relations program to heighten awareness of Yap in the North American market.

"Yap is one of the world’s greatest cultural treasures," said Ruth Limtiaco, head of The Limtiaco Company. "They have made a conscious effort to preserve their traditional cultural way of life."

The public relations campaign will focus on promoting Yap’s eco- and cultural- tourism to adventure travelers. Among the many highlights include exploration of its pristine reefs; diving with giant manta rays; and promoting its traditional culture, such as use of the unique stone money wheel, known as rai.

"Yap didn’t begin allowing visitors to enter their state until 1986, so they were cautious about allowing western culture to creep into their way of life," Limtiaco said. "They’re now willing to share their culture."

Yap State, located in the Western Caroline Islands of the Federated States of Micronesia, is comprised of four major islands – Yap, Rumung, Gagil-Tomil and Map. It also includes 134 outlying islands, one of which is Satawal, home of the famous navigator, Mau Pialug.

Rumung, known as the "forbidden island," is restricted to visitors. Residents there practice the strictest of Yapese customs. Also of interest are Ulithi, the fifth largest atoll in the world and home of the U.S. seventh fleet during World War II. Fais Island is famous for its cascading cliffs, white sandy beaches, and some of the finest weavers in the Pacific.

Since Yap doesn’t have a large tourism budget for advertising, efforts will focus on gaining media attention in national tourism publications, such as National Geographic, as well travel programs on cable TV.

"We can take a small amount of money and maximize it with a great deal of exposure without heavy advertising," she said. "Since magazine advertising is an expensive method that they can’t afford, public relations is a more efficient use of their money."

The Limtiaco Company also handles public relations for The Republic of Palau. Palau has recently entered into a joint marketing agreement with Yap and the island state of Kosrae.

"We’re going to market them together," Limtiaco said. "Since they are half an hour apart from each other, we’re going to stress that it makes good sense for travelers to visit both destinations."

Limtiaco doesn’t expect immediate results in Yap. She notes that after seven years of working with Palau, it’s only been recently that it’s gotten worldwide media attention.

Conde Nast Traveler magazine featured a cover story on Palau in April. And the Travel Channel will be there this month to do a story on one of the world’s best secret beaches.

"When we first worked on Palau, we couldn’t get people to return our phone calls," Limtiaco said. "People are now calling us to get information about Palau."

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