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Hawaii Tourism Conference 2016: A mixed review, but travel business in Hawaii is booming

Juergen T Steinmetz, eTN  Oct 02, 2016

The 2016 Hawaii Tourism Conference at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu ended in Honolulu on Friday.

Transforming Tourism Together was a packed four day event from Tuesday to Friday last week and was to cover all parts of Hawaiian Tourism.
The overall message: "Tourism in Hawaii is booming and times are bright for the Hawaii Travel and Tourism Industry."

The Legacy Award Luncheon in the Ballroom on Tuesday was an impressive start.

Hawaii epitomizes diversity, a unique culture & lifestyle, and a continually growing tourism economy set the platform for the conference.

It was meant to be a global summit on international tourism trends, strategic alliances and emerging opportunities.

The 2016 Hawai'i Tourism Conference brought together thought leaders, visionaries, suppliers, operators, policy makers and the media in an innovative format of networking and sharing.

The number of delegates attending could not be confirmed, and HTA did not respond to eTN repeat requests for interviews, comments or feedback.

Unofficial registration numbers talk about 1100 to 1600 delegates attended the high profile event at the Hawaii Convention Center. This would have been a clear improvement from last year. However this year the set up was confusing. Delegates were able to buy a pass for all event days or could select certain days or even certain events.

Every conference day was packed with seminars covering Culture, Education, Visitor's experience. A focus was put on a message in regards to Hawaii's excellent reputation for protecting the environment and the visitors impact on the Hawaii ecology.

Hawaii tourism representatives attended from key markets in Asia, Oceania, Europe, Canada and the U.S. mainland reported about their activities to promote tourism to the Aloha State.

LGBT Hawaii sponsored a research discussion with case studies on the potential of the LGBT niche market. Speakers include Thomas Roth from Community Marketing and Inside in San Francisco, also a member of the International Coalition of Tourism Partners (ICTP).

Touching the potential of LGBT business Amanda Hills of Hills Balfour PR in London and representing Hawaii Tourism Europe urged not to forget the 56 billion Euro outbound LGBT tourism potential.

Louis D'Amore, founder and president of the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism discussed the achievements of his organization and partnership with the Hawaii based International Coalition of Tourism Partners (ICTP) on IIPT's Peace Park project. Mr D'Amore asked Hawaii to participate in expanding Peace Parks in Hawaii. He told eTN about a discussion he had with George Szigeti, President and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

eTN Team at work
General Session
LGBT Hawaii stand
IIPT founder Louis D'Amore presentation 
Dr. Peter Tarlow on Tourism Security
An empty session on Tourism Security
Rooftop networking event

Mr. D'Amore told eTN: "My discussion with Mr. Szigeti went well. Overall the Hawaii Tourism Conference was an excellent event and I enjoyed my short stay here to be part of it. Everyone at the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) was great."

Two of the most interesting sessions were about Critical Access: The State of Air Service to Hawaii and a session entitled "Behind the Scenes: The Role of Safety and Security.

The security session was presented by Peter Tarlow from Tourism and More. Mr. Tarlow's organization is also a member of ICTP. Both sessions were competing on Thursday with a very important and often announced General Session on Virtual Reality: The Undiscovered Territory in Tourism Marketing.

An almost empty room and no one attending from the Hawaii administration, the Honolulu Police Department (HPD), no one attending from Hawaii security firms prompted Dr. Tarlow to wonder if Hawaii is really interested in security for their visitors. He was criticizing the lack of security at the Hawaii Convention Center, Ala Moana Shopping Mall and all the Hotels & Resorts in Hawaii.

Dr.Tarlow said: "This was one of the worst organized conferences I ever participated. I had been speaking at events in every single US State and all over the world. I am a big fan of Hawaii and delivered my session pro-bono."

He continues to tell eTN: "I had been speaking at a number of events in Hawaii over the years, but this time I did not experience at all the Aloha Spirit Hawaii is so famous for."

Exhibitors at the Hawaii Tourism Conference however had a better day on Thursday when the General Session box lunch event was moved to the downstairs exhibition hall. Exhibitors were frustrated the first three days of the conference. They experience an almost deserted exhibition hall. All the busy sessions were conducted on the 3rd or 4th floor.

Dmytro Makarov manning the eTurboNews stand said. "I attended the recent IUCN event at this convention center. Having the exhibition in the hallway where delegates would go from one session to another would have been more rewarding for exhibitors."

The Wednesday Aloha Reception on the rooftop of the Hawaii Convention Center was a fun event with entertainment and networking opportunities.

What was missing was good food. At the IUCN conference Hotels and Restaurants from across the State understood the importance of food and tourism. At the IUCN conference food was showcased at the IUCN rooftop event, and it was a gourmet tour of the island. This time at the Hawaii Tourism Conference delegates had to do with dry food, but free drinks for all made up for the poor gourmet experience.

Outrigger Hotels and Resorts was the only hotel sponsor mentioned. Surprisingly no other hotel or resort was exhibiting or showcasing their property at the Hawaii Tourism Conference.

The Hawaii Lodging Tourism and Lodging Association did not have a role in the event and would not comment to eTN why.

eTurboNews was a proud media partner and exhibitor.

Hawaii Tourism Conference 2016: A mixed review, but travel business in Hawaii is booming
Amanda Hills, CEO Hills Balfour representing Hawaii Tourism Europe



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