The roots of Hawaii’s cultural history are intertwined with many of the Asian races. The Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans immigrated to the islands and worked side by side on the pineapple plantations, sharing their food and stories and joining with each other during celebrations.
It is no surprise then that today, the Japanese represent Hawaii’s largest tourism market, and it is no surprise that Asians in their own countries have a love affair with Hawaii. In Korea, they call Jeju Island “Korea’s Hawaii.” In China, the Chinese said they will make Hainan “the Hawaii of Asia.” And in Hainan, the Chinese are spending upwards of US$1,400 per night for a hotel room during Golden Week – the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration that lasts for seven days and begins this year on February 14.
And while the Chinese are celebrating in Hainan all week long, they can see and take part in promotions being presented by tourism organizations from Australia, New Zealand, Bali, Thailand, and Japan – but not Hawaii. If you went to ITB Berlin last year, you would have had the opportunity to visit booths representing China, Japan, and Korea – but not Hawaii.
China should be a market that Hawaii tourism is going after; it’s a natural. Hawaii should be going after every tourism market that presents itself, but it doesn’t. Last year, Hawaii Tourism Associations’s (HITA) president, Juergen Thomas Steinmetz, connected with a group that wanted to start bringing Russian tourists to Hawaii. HITA secured the support of the US Department of Commerce and the US Embassy in Moscow. When he presented the information to a leading representative of HTA, he was told, “We don’t want foreign-speaking tourists on our island, since signs on the beach are only in English.”
“The reason I created HiTA was not to compete with the Hawaii Tourism Authority, but to assist in growing Hawaii’s tourism. It is true that it was born out of frustration upon seeing all these missed opportunities, but the intent was to officially represent Hawaii’s tourism sector while I am out in the world wearing my hat as the publisher of eTurboNews and then bring potential opportunities back to the state when I returned home,” Mr. Steinmetz stated.
ETurboNews (eTN) is a Hawaii-based global travel industry publication with 235,000 travel trade professionals worldwide as subscribers. ETN is an exclusive partner with the CNN International Destination Task Group, and ETN attended and partnered with 58 travel industry events in 2008 and 2009. “Unfortunately, I think HTA sees me as trying to barge in on their business, even going so far as to tell people that HiTA is a fraud. I don’t understand this mentality. I love this state, and I am only trying to help tourism in what I perceived as a logical partnership,” Steinmetz added.
As track records go, if the Chinese say they will make their own Hawaii in Hainan, then Hawaii should expect that Hainan will be a fierce tourism competitor within the next five years. As track records go, will Hawaii be ready for this competition, or will this prelude of time when something could be done before it actually happens, turn out to be just another opportunity missed?
ABOUT THE HAWAII TOURISM ASSOCIATION
The Hawaii Tourism Association’s (HITA) mission is to inform, educate, and update the global travel industry on current and emerging trends, economics, events, activities, businesses, and marketing that help shape the tourists’ perception of the Hawaiian Islands. HITA serves as a discussion forum for issues affecting industry members interested in doing business in Hawaii, while also working with new markets and regions expressing interest in visiting the Islands. The association offers member services that enhance the Hawaiian experience and promote the indigenous people, culture, and uniqueness which differentiates the most geographically-remote place on Earth from other island sand-sun-surf vacation and business destinations.
For more information on Hawaii Tourism Association visit: www.hawaiitourismassociation.com