Hawaii tourism officials and their marketing contractors expressed cautious optimism Wednesday that a steady recovery of the state’s visitor industry is under way.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority’s 2010 spring marketing update was held at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu.
The recovery trend was evident in late 2009 and has continued into the new year, helped by increased air lift into Hawaii, media blitzes in key Mainland cities, and a robust increase in travel from South Korea.
But HTA’s optimism is tempered with concerns about rising fuel costs, aggressive marketing from competing destinations, and consumers worried about spending money in a shaky economy.
Many Hawaii hotels, still hurting from reduced revenue from massive cuts in room rates, face new rounds of labor negotiations with employees beginning this summer. Meanwhile, some hotel owners may face foreclosure because of difficulties in meeting debt payments.
Still, the overall message is that Hawaii remains a desirable destination.
If marketers and their travel partners continue to closely coordinate strategies and branding images, Hawaii may well see 6.7 million visitors by year’s end — an improvement over 2009.
Among the 2010 marketing highlights:
• Visitor arrivals from Japan, the U.S. West and Canada are expected to see modest growth this year, but the U.S. East market remains hamstrung by long flight times to the Islands and the proximity of closer tropical destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean.
• Meeting, incentive, convention and event marketers are leveraging the 2011 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Honolulu to demonstrate that Hawaii is a place to do serious business. That perception change is helping to drive some incentive bookings to the Hawaii Convention Center and smaller meeting places in hotels.
• Increased travel from China is expected this year, in part because Hawaii will be featured prominently at the U.S. Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo in June. But Chinese travel will be limited at least until nonstop weekly air service between Beijing in Honolulu begins — something that Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines has yet to initiate despite announcement of the new service last year.
The HTA is Hawaii’s official tourism agency with an annual budget of about $71 million supported by a transient accommodations tax placed on hotel, resort and other guests.
The HTA’s chief marketer is the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, which targets North America leisure business as well as convention business from East Asia. The HTA also markets to leisure travelers in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and the Philippines.