The Hawai’i Tourism Authority hosted its Spring Marketing Update today. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.
Tourists in Hawai’i spend $33,000 a minute. That’s up 8 percent in average visitor spending from the same time last year, according the Hawai’i Tourism Authority. Nearly three-fourths are return visitors, so the marketing strategy for the mainland is to focus on the “Never Beens.”
“And that market’s New York.”
Jay Talwar is HTA’s chief marketing officer. He says New York City has the highest concentration of the Hawai’i target traveler on the mainland and HTA is trying to connect face-to-face.
“When people are commuting in New York, their elbows are out; their heads are down and they’re on a mission: to get from one place to the next. We took the Halau to Columbus Circle and one of the people told us, as they stopped, that you just warmed a cold New Yorker’s heart. So it’s really starting to share the warmth of the Aloha Spirit in a way you can’t do digitally, in print or on TV.”
Visitor travel from Europe, Canada and Oceania remains flat and China, due in part to the Presidential Travel Ban, is down. Reene Ho Phang is the strategic marketing supervisor in mainland China.
“Chinese travelers go through quite a bit in order to get to Hawai’i. They have to go through interviews to secure their Visa. These interview sessions are quite nerve-wracking. There are 11 documents. Our rejection rate is now at about 40 percent which means that out of the 5-thousand applicants, 3-thousand are now coming to Hawai’i.”
HTA Board Chair, Rick Fried, says the Presidential Travel Ban is being perceived as a deterrent in some areas but the HTA is expanding into other markets to minimize the impact of downturns.
“The Nu Skin Conference with allegedly we were gonna have 6-thousand people here and now it looks like, in large part because of the travel ban and the difficulty in getting Visas, we may be down to half of that. And so we’re trying to promote MCI – the meeting, convention and incentive business because these are the very tourists that spend a great deal of money. More than the leisure tourists.”
Hawai’i’s largest Asia market, Japan, is up but near its peak. Marketing Director, Eric Takahata, says 1.5 million Japanese visitors annually seems about right without overtaxing the environment. The focus now, he says, is to increase spending.
“First one is Millennials, we wanna get the young person here, definitely. And then with all the infrastructure investment -- as far as hotels, airlift for the luxury market, that’s the one that we see huge potential on. And of course now with the direct flight from Haneda to Kona by Hawaiian Airlines, that just opens up a whole new world for neighbor island travel.”
And, HTA Chief Operating Officer, Randy Baldemore, says the tourism upswing should continue for the rest of the year.
“We’ll be getting more routes coming into Hawaii, one for example is from Delta Airlines which will be coming from Seattle to Lihue, so we’re still very strong as far as air access. U.S. West it’s a little flat right now but U.S. East is significantly up; Japan has been up; so, generally, when you look at the tourism picture it’s positive.”
HTA is planning to host its Global Tourism Summit, September 19th.