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When It Comes to Business Travel, Hawaiʻi Is Projected to Lose $1.1B This Year

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When it comes to business travel, Hawaiʻi is projected to lose $1.1 billion this year compared to 2019, according to a report from the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Hawaiʻi primarily draws leisure travelers — but nationally, business travel is a big revenue generator for cities.

But the lingering effects of COVID-19 are causing organizations and companies to reduce trips and events this year.

Locally, the meetings, conferences and incentives, or MCI, market accounts for a majority of business travel.

Kalani Kaʻanaʻana, the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority’s chief brand officer, says prior to the pandemic it made up 5% to 7% of the overall visitor arrivals — which still has value.

"On the meeting side and the MCI side, those are really the travelers we’re going after. They tend to be more respectful, they’re happening in structured events where they’re occupied during the day — reducing their impact and traffic and other things," Kaʻanaʻana said.

"They tend to have a higher spend compared to a leisure traveler. And so I think for us, they really form the kind of core market that we really like to see of respectful travelers who travel pono," he told Hawaiʻi Public Radio. "Also, they have additional benefits because many of them will add days before and after the conference."

Kaʻanaʻana says in order for tourism and business travel to recover — we have to better understand how to live with COVID.

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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