© 2023 Hawaiʻi Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Talk Shows:Listen again to your favorite talk programs on HPR-2!Local News:News features and series from HPR's award winning news departmentHPR-2 Program Schedule:find out when all your favorite programs are on the air on HPR-2! Or you can find out more from the HPR-2 detailed program listings.

Hawaii Eyes Asian Markets in Tourism Outlook

Flickr / Marvin Chandra
Flickr / Marvin Chandra

Officials from the state’s biggest industry shared their plans for promoting the islands to key international markets, including China, Southeast Asia, and Korea. HPR’s Molly Solomon was there and has this report.

It was mostly good news at Tuesday’s tourism briefings. For example Hawai‘i saw a 29% increase in travelers from China this year, bringing it up to the fourth most popular destination in the United States.

Molly Solomon
Credit Molly Solomon
Hawaii Tourism China's Reene Ho-Phang and Raymong Kong present a marketing update at the Hawaii Convention Center.

Hawai‘i Tourism China’s Reene Ho-Phang says the majority of those travelers are young, often no older than 35. That new demographic is changing the way tourism officials need to think about how they market the islands. “Younger generation buys travel very differently,” said Ho-Phang who leads the marketing team in Shanghai. “They are booking online because they can pick and choose. They are wanting products to choose for themselves what type of travel experience they are going after.”

More than 160,000 visitors from China came to Hawaii last year.  And in South Korea travelers to the islands reached 178,000 in 2014. Eileen Lee, from Hawai‘i Tourism Korea, expects that number to rise with increased airlift to Honolulu, including a new route opening later this month by Jin Air, a low cost carrier or LCC. “This is the first long haul service by an LCC out of the Korean market,” said Lee. “So everyone is very excited about Jin Air coming in.”

Depending on Jin Air’s success, Air Busan, another Korean carrier, could launch a Honolulu route as early as next year. The tourism agency is also looking at one group very closely: the Gangnam-style Mommy. “Gangnam is like a Beverly Hills in Seoul,” explains Lee. “The Mommies, they know what’s hot and trendy. They lead the consumer trend. So we want to go after this influential, powerful target market.”

Tuesday’s briefings also included a new marketing team from Southeast Asia. They’ll work to increase Hawai‘i tourism in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

HTA President and CEO George Szigeti say he wants to be more creative in pursuing new visitors. “It can’t be status quo. We can’t get complacent,” said Szigeti after the morning’s briefings. “We have to embrace technology and be ahead of everyone else, but we’re just not at that point.” Szigeti says he’s hoping to change that. “Being forward-thinking, thinking what do the millennials want? What are the people after the millennials going to want? Let’s be ahead.”

Hawaii tourism leaders say the state is on track to reach another record-breaking year, exceeding last year’s 8.3 million visitors.

Molly Solomon
Molly Solomon joined HPR in May 2012 as an intern for the morning talk show The Conversation. She has since worn a variety of hats around the station, doing everything from board operator to producer.
Related Stories