Tourism industry latching onto Johnson’s wave
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As Hawaii's visitor industry copes with the looming loss of 237,000 cruise visitors and the continued impacts of rising fuel costs and a sliding U.S. economy, tourism officials say continued market diversification will be the key to shoring up the industry in 2008.
International marketers yesterday announced plans to take advantage of the return of isle music star Jack Johnson to touring. They'll ride the wave of demand for his concerts in Europe, Oceania and Asia.
As the U.S. dollar continues to weaken, they'll also tout favorable exchange rates. And, as government initiatives improve access from Korea and China, they'll begin supplementing their marketing programs to attract more leisure travelers from those regions.
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Hawaii's international tourism marketers plan to build demand for Hawaii by riding the wave of interest created by surfer-turned-musician Jack Johnson's return to touring.
They'll use Johnson, who is well-known internationally as a Hawaii icon, to spark demand to visit his home among fans in Europe, Asia and Oceania. Kaukahi, a group that routinely performs with Johnson, will help boost demand in Japan.
"Jack Johnson is a really low-key guy in the islands, but he's really well known internationally," said David Uchiyama, vice president of marketing for the Hawaii Tourism Authority. "His return to tour after the hiatus he took following the birth of his child is big news."
As Hawaii's visitor industry copes with the looming loss of 237,000 cruise visitors and the continued impacts of rising fuel costs and a falling U.S. economy, marketers have found like Johnson touts in his famous lyrics that "it's always better when we're together."
A united image and collaboration across the markets will be the key to shoring up Hawaii's visitor industry in 2008, Uchiyama said. Continued diversification of the market will be equally important, he said.
"We're looking at having to make up a huge chunk of visitors because of the loss of the two NCL ships and we're still looking closely at North America because of the sub-prime crisis," Uchiyama said.
Hawaii's top two visitor markets, North America and Japan, are forecast to remain flat and decline respectively so Hawaii will be looking to other international markets to help make up the difference, he said.
"There are a lot of challenges," Uchiyama said. "But, we've got a lot of opportunities, too."
Moving into 2008, Hawaii Tourism Japan must overcome the challenge of limited airline capacity and rising fuel costs and competition, coupled with market changes such as an aging population and the growth of the working poor, said Takashi Ichikura, executive director of Hawaii Tourism Japan.
While the Japanese economy has been improving and the yen rate is favorable to the dollar, Hawaii's tourism experts have said that the Japan market may continue to be weighed down by its other challenges.
"Unfortunately, another fuel surcharge is expected next month," Ichikura said, adding that roundtrip fuel surcharges now approach $300 per ticket.
HTA and HTJ will meet with airlines in May to discuss improving seating capacity. The Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA) also has been appealing to make surcharges part of the ticket price in Japan.
In the meantime, tourism marketers are hoping to fill the void with travelers from other rapidly growing countries in Asia. Korea will be admitted to the Visa Waiver Program in early 2009, allowing visa-free travel to the U.S., and China is expected to implement a memorandum of understanding in June that will allow travelers to make leisure trips to Hawaii, said Michael Merner, managing director for Hawaii Tourism Asia.
As a result of these changes, tourism from Korea is expected to double within the first one to two years and tourism from China is expected to double within two years, Merner said. As such, HTA has approved $700,000 in marketing supplements to help better position Hawaii to take advantage of the access changes, Uchiyama said.
A strong economy and favorable exchange rates also have boosted arrivals and performance for Canada, Europe and Oceania source markets to Hawaii. And, while these source markets are still relatively small, their percentage gains have been significant.