Hawaii's dining scene dissed in tourism ranking
HAWAII'S desirability as a culinary destination has been equated to chopped liver in a culinary tourism report.
Industry people are not happy.
The Travel Industry Association, Gourmet magazine and the International Culinary Tourism Association found that 27 million travelers, or 17 percent of American leisure travelers engaged in culinary- or wine-related activities while, well, traveling, in the past three years.
"The study demonstrates that a sizable proportion of the U.S. leisure market does indeed make travel decisions based on a desire for wine and culinary experiences," said Laura Mandala, Vice President of Research for the Travel Industry Association, in a statement. "It confirms that wine and culinary experiences are a driver of destination choice."
Food-related activities included dining out, taking cooking classes, visiting farmers' markets, gourmet food shopping and attending food festivals.
California is ranked as the top U.S. food-related travel destination, followed by Florida, New York and Texas.
North Carolina and Georgia are tied at No. 5, and Hawaii is in a seven-way tie for 7th place, followed by Arizona and Virginia, for the top 15.
Florida, Texas and Georgia ranked higher than Hawaii?
Seriously. Conch? Barbecue? Deep-fried okra?
The culinary achievement known as the James Beard Award regularly travels to Hawaii around local restaurateurs' necks.
"Hawaii's cuisine and chefs rival any culinary experience in America," said Jay Talwar, senior vice president of marketing for the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority's report card for HVCB's marketing efforts shows that among travelers from 12 western states, Hawaii's cuisine kicks the okoles of destinations people must fly to reach, including Australia, the Caribbean, Mexico and Alaska.
It's not as if Hawaii's cuisine has gone unpublicized, although our culinary industry is not as mature as New Orleans' French Quarter. That is changing, however. HVCB shepherds about 50 travel writers a year and provides information to hundreds more -- and the culinary component is always part of the package.
The Hawaii food scene recently got national exposure on Bravo's "Top Chef," a chef competition taped at the Hilton Waikoloa Village.
The rejuvenated Waikiki will star in upcoming HVCB marketing and one aspect will include "a huge spotlight on cuisine, both the native chefs that have grown up here that helped create Hawaii Regional Cuisine and our adopted chefs" as well, said Talwar.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: email@example.com