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Tourism Marketing Briefing

Hawaii limits its tourism markets

Stephen K. Craven  Mar 10, 2011

I attended the spring market briefing by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA). Here are some quick hits on things that were presented by HTA (in no particular order):

Competing Destinations. HTA sees a pick-up in travel to Mexico this year, reversing last year’s downturn. Caribbean destinations are stepping up their promotions to US East Coast travelers. Thailand is drawing Asian visitors, and the Maldives are attracting more Europeans.

Europe. HTA sees waning interest by Europeans in coming to Hawaii due to the down economy and a lack of direct flights. (I expect the economy is a factor, but not as important as HTA’s relative lack of promotion in Europe. The direct flight argument is always used, but I don’t think it is particularly valid. Europeans don’t seem to mind breaking their trip somewhere. I do the same thing when I go to Europe.)

HTA continues to ignore ITB in Berlin, the world’s top travel industry trade show. Their reasoning seems to be that most of the trade visitors come from Europe, so it must be a waste of money. ITB attracts hundreds of trade visitors and exhibitors from the markets that HTA ignores, providing a reasonable way to access these markets. HTA’s definition of Europe, by the way, is the United Kingdom, Ireland, and German-speaking Europe. If you live in, say, France, Sweden, or Russia, for instance, Hawaii apparently doesn’t want you to come visit. At least, they don’t let their contractor spend money there.

HTA’s Europe contractor noted that there were some 120,000 visitors from the European Union to Hawaii last year, staying in our islands for an average of 21.3 days. True, they don’t spend as much per day as Asians, but they are cost effective, steady customers. My sources tell me that HTA devotes all of US$100,000 a year to Europe marketing. It helps, said the contractor, that Bruddah Iz’s “Over The Rainbow” was the 2010 Song of the Year in Germany!

China. Chinese visitors to Hawaii spend a wonderful US$367.70 every day they are in Hawaii. The problem is that they only stay for six days. And, despite a hefty investment of more than US$2 million in the China market, only 66,000 Chinese showed up. Admittedly, visas are still an issue, as is the same lack of direct flights that leads HTA to write-off Europe.

Japan. Most (60%) travelers from Japan are repeat visitors, and 75% come to Hawaii in package tours. One wonders why the outsize emphasis on Japan continues. This strikes me as a fully-developed market, not a young and growing market.

Websites. HTA has put up a very nice website in German and plans to follow it this year with sites in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

FAM Trips & Trade Missions. FAM trips are what are known in other industries as reverse trade missions. You pay to bring prospective buyers (in this case, tour operators) to your market to see your product. This is one thing on which HTA and I see eye-to-eye. FAM trips are essential and HTA has a bunch of them planned for 2011. By my count, there will be one FAM trip from Europe (for 12 tour operators), one from Australia (for fifty or more), one from Japan, three FAM trips from Korea (about 25 operators), two from China (about 23 operators), one from Taiwan (for seven), and one from the Philippines (for 15 travel agents). There will be one tourism trade mission to China and South Korea to meet travel agents on their home ground.

Trade Shows. It is the European shows that HTA ignores. They plan to be (or have been) at the Hana Tour Travel Fair in Seoul, the China international Travel Mart, and the Asia Pacific Incentive & Meetings Expo in Australia.

Market Saturation Campaigns. Not my usual beat, but one of HTA’s domestic techniques is impressive. Market saturation, or “blitz” campaigns in major US metropolitan areas, using the entire spectrum of marketing media from billboards, to TV, gourmet events, and print coverage. What HTA showed us was very slick. These campaigns go for short-term results, and HTA was able to show that market saturation worked beautifully in Los Angeles and San Francisco, producing immediate surges in visitors. But, inexplicably, blitzes in the Seattle area – done the same way – seemed to have no impact at all. HTA is mystified, I am perplexed, and that is what makes marketing an art, not a science.

Hawaii Convention Center. Bookings at the convention center in Honolulu show an odd pattern. One would expect bookings to fall off during the recent recession, and it takes a year or two to recover from that. But the Convention Center shows relatively strong bookings for 2011, then a sharp drop for 2012 and 2013, an increase again for 2014 and 2015, then drops again for 2016 and 2018. Strange. Good coverage from this fall’s APEC Meetings may prompt more bookings in later years.

Announcements in Honolulu International. With great fanfare, a new 30-second welcoming announcement was played for us. It is being played every half hour at Honolulu’s airport to give the place a more welcoming atmosphere as visitors wait for their bags or stand in line to clear customs and immigration. Nice idea, except the announcement is in Hawaiian and English only. I love the Hawaiian language and have absorbed a bit of it over my years here, but just how many Hawaiian speakers arrive every day at HNL? Where are the announcements and the signage in Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Cantonese, Spanish, German… ?

Hawaii limits its tourism markets
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