Hawaii says aloha to families
AUSTRALIAN families are flocking to Hawaii in increasing numbers, keen to experience the soft adventure and culture of the many islands.
While Hawaii’s romantic appeal for couples and honeymooners has not waned, families with children are the strongest growth market for Australians travelling to Hawaii.
“We’ve seen great growth over the past three years,” says Hawaii Tourism Oceania (HTO) country manager Australia Ashlee Galea. “In 2012, 19.5% of Australians travelling to Hawaii were families with children, but now that number is 29%.”
Seeing that growing trend, HTO has developed a dedicated guide to help Australians plan their family holiday to the Hawaiian Islands. Galea says it is a useful tool for agents, as well as being something they can give their clients.
“Hawaiian Airlines flights leave Sydney at 9.20pm and fly through the night which makes an easy transition for people travelling with children,” she says, adding that the islands’ many soft adventure options make Hawaii a popular choice for parents with “tweens or teens”.
Over the past five years, Australians have become more aware of the attractions of the “neighbour islands” and have increasingly travelled beyond Oahu.
“We have recognised how important it is for people to be able to differentiate between each island, as each has its own unique offering. We are looking at more consumer brand activity and trade training this year to highlight the personalities of each island,” says Galea.
Mahalo Month, now in full swing, is also an opportunity for agents to learn more about Hawaii, with twenty partners from Hawaii taking part in the annual Australian road show this year.
Hawaiian-based Outrigger Resorts vice president corporate communications Bitsy Kelley, who travelled to Australia last month, agreed that Hawaii was a great destination for Australian families looking to indulge their love of the outdoors and the ocean.
Australia is a key source market for Outrigger Resorts, representing about 12-15% of guests, all who are looking for a variety of experiences, Kelley says.
“The family market is big, but we cater to all ages and all types of travellers, including business travellers and young people looking for shopping or nightlife,” she says.
As part of its aim to “incentivise and educate” travel agents as key partners, the Outrigger Expert Agent Program is planning some future changes which include booking bonuses, double reward points for specific properties, and exclusive familiarisation invitations. It has also recently released its 2015 Travel Professionals Guide which includes detailed information on Outrigger’s 24 properties on Ohau, Maui, Hawaii (The Big Island) and Kauai.
Outrigger’s vice president sales and marketing Asia Pacific Mark Simons says the hotel group hopes to have up to 2000 Australian agents in the program by the end of the year.
“Outrigger Hotels and Resorts believes in rewarding travel agents for their hard work and business as we know that travel agents are a vital piece of our overall success,” he says. “Travel agents generate a massive amount of business for Outrigger through direct bookings and wholesalers.”
Whether it is diving with turtles, canoeing, renewing wedding vows or surfing, Kelley says Hawaii offers a cultural experience that travellers are keen to experience.
After Oahu, Maui remains the second most popular destination in Hawaii, followed by Hawaii Island and Kauai, which HTO’s Galea says is the most “under-discovered” of the islands.
“Only 10% of Kauai is developed, and the interior is untouched natural beauty. You can go mountain tubing on former irrigation channels, zip lining, horse riding, bike riding, and do movie tours. It’s really great for teenagers.”
Just a 25 minute flight from Honolulu, Kauai also has three rivers, long stretches of white-sand beaches, and a long list of adventures on offer.
Galea says the family guide has information on what specific hotels offer, including Keiki Clubs (kids clubs), children’s menus at restaurants and other family friendly features.
Australians nominate “rest and relaxation” as the top reason for travelling to Hawaii, with 43% of travellers being couples, and 20% extended families or friends travelling for special occasions or family reunions.
The second most cited reason for a Hawaii holiday is shopping, followed by food and wine. Other top activities include sightseeing, historical places, surfing and swimming, and beaches, Galea says.
The Hawaii Family Guide is a valuable resource which is now available online.