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Amid Slower Growth, Tourism’s Recovery Benefits Us All

May 31, 2014 Destination Hawaii No Comments Email Email

Despite slower growth during the second half of the year, Hawaii reached record numbers in visitor spending and arrivals in 2013. While the outlook for summer remains strong, we expect to see a slower fall season, especially from our core U.S. market.  

This reflects the cyclical pattern of our tourism industry, in which a few successful years are often followed by a downturn. One of the roles of the HTA is to mitigate the peaks and valleys to ensure the long-term sustainability of Hawaii’s tourism economy.

As we see our mature U.S. markets starting to soften, we are looking at ways to stimulate growth and expansion from developing markets, particularly Other Asia, which includes Korea, China and Taiwan.    unnamed (24)

International arrivals currently make up 42 percent of Hawaii’s visitor industry. Outbound travel from the Asia region continues to rise as a result of the recent expansion of the U.S. visa waiver program, and we continue to work towards reestablishing Kona as an international port of entry, which will help in receiving international visitors and ease resources at Honolulu International Airport.

In 2013, arrivals from Other Asia increased by 18.4 percent to 343,327 visitors, and we anticipate reaching 438,800 arrivals this year. Nonstop flights connecting Korea, Taiwan and China to Hawaii will support international arrivals to the state, and provide greater access. We recently welcomed six nonstop flights from Beijing to Honolulu in addition to five weekly flights from Shanghai.

The economies in the Asia markets are also faring well and anticipate growth in 2014. Coupled with favorable currency exchange rates, a Hawaiian vacation has become more affordable, with Chinese visitors reporting the highest per person per day spending of $410, as of March 2014.

Our pivot towards expanding efforts in Asia is a logical fit, and developing these markets will help to balance declines from the U.S.

At the beginning of the year, we contracted new marketing partners in China and Taiwan to help us reach aggressive targets for the region. We are working with them, as well as our contractor in Korea, to find creative ways to target both the leisure and meetings, conventions and incentives (MCI) travelers to help grow Hawaii’s market share of outbound travel as well as educating and raising awareness of our destination.

While Japan’s economy remains relatively unstable due to a recent hike in consumption tax, Japan continues to be our largest international market, making up 17 percent of visitors to the state. As a commitment to this market, the HTA and the Japan Association of Travel Agents have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to reach two million annual visitors by 2016.

We understand this is an aggressive goal. Despite being a mature market for Hawaii, there are still opportunities for growth in Japan. The HTA continues to work with its marketing contractor to attract first-time travelers from regional areas of Japan as well as promote first-time experiences on the neighbor islands, among repeat travelers.

Competition from other destinations will continue to be a challenge, but what the Hawaiian Islands offer is truly unique: our host and multi-cultures, diverse natural landscape and the aloha spirit of our people. This sets us apart from any other destination in the world. We are a world-class destination and we must collectively work together with focus and purpose for the long-term sustainability of Hawaii’s tourism economy.

We have to remember that travel and tourism is more than just a business for Hawaii. It is a lead economic driver and valuable export that allows us to enhance our global relations and perpetuate and share our unique people, place and culture.

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