Hawaii looks beyond the US

Hawaii tB 2Hawaii Tourism is appealing to the trade to boost its international grasp and achieve the “ambitious” target of 400,000 Australian travellers each year.

Hawaii Tourism has reported ongoing success in the domestic market, with local bookings – including from the US mainland – comprising about 60% of annual bookings.

But while the domestic market continues to perform, with around 3.7 million visitors each year, Hawaii Tourism president and chief executive Mike McCartney said the tourism board has its sights on bigger targets.

“We are very dependent on the US and we need to grow our international markets if we want to succeed,” he told a media conference last month. “But that requires more than just money. We need to build awareness of Hawaii as an international holiday destination and diversify if we want to continue to expand.”

Diversity was a common theme in McCartney’s speech as he reiterated the need to improve on the current state of play, as was the need to re-position Hawaii as a global destination.

“We want to grow, we need to, but to do that we need to show how versatile we are. We have a lot more to offer than most people think,” he said.

Visitor spend topped $10 billion from January to August 2014, while total arrivals hit 5.5 million on the back of 22% growth in air traffic from Asia and 6.8% growth from Europe. 

Oceania air traffic also saw a 5.4% increase on the same time last year, while daily average spend jumped 2.5% to $195 per person in the first eight months of 2014.

McCartney  described the figures as “pleasing”, but said Hawaii Tourism’s long term focus needed more attention to combat challenges such as decreasing discretionary spend and increasing costs of a Hawaiian holiday. More work was also needed to combat “fierce competition” from Fiji, Bali and Thailand, he added.

“We need the trade’s help,” he told travelBulletin after the event. “Around 60% of Hawaiian holidays are booked through an agent, so the trade remains absolutely key for us and we will continue to launch discounts and incentives to keep them onboard.”

McCartney pointed to Australia as key growth market for Hawaii, and voiced hopes to boost visitor numbers from 350,000 annual visitors to 400,000 by next year.

“The potential from Australia is greater than present so we must really engage with the trade to attract more visitors. We know 400,000 visitors is an ambitious target and we will have to work extremely hard to make it happen. We can’t take Australia for granted,” he said.

McCartney said increased air access from Brisbane and Melbourne has been “helpful” in increasing visitors from Australia, adding that increasing capacity and air lift was a “key focus” for Hawaiian Tourism in the year ahead. Cruising is another area of focus following a 44% spike in demand from Oceania travellers, said McCartney, adding that the tourism board is now considering options to ease access.

“Cruising gained popularity among Aussie visitors last year and we are now looking at a centralised booking authority to streamline bookings between islands. We’re still determining what it will look like, but it will be more of a tool to figure out scheduling. Watch this space,” he said.