Tourism officials tout ‘special occasions’
Marketers are hoping Hawaii's statehood anniversary will help reverse a visitor slump
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Hawaii's visitor industry wants travelers to come celebrate with it in 2009.
Travelers are increasingly perceiving Hawaii to be a faraway destination with a high price tag.
While some could argue that the lagging U.S. economy is no cause for celebration, Hawaii's tourism marketers are hoping to capitalize on the hoopla surrounding the upcoming 50th anniversary of Hawaii's statehood to get travelers to come to the islands for their own special occasions.
"The consumer feels they are less able to afford travel due to economic conditions," said Jay Talwar, senior vice president of marketing for the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.
This sentiment has translated into fewer bookings for Hawaii and has narrowed the pool of future travelers, he said.
While travel from Asia -- outside of Japan -- to Hawaii is poised for growth in 2009 and beyond, travelers are increasingly perceiving Hawaii to be a faraway destination with a high price tag.
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With the 50th anniversary of Hawaii's statehood coming in 2009, state tourism officials and international marketing contractors plan to use that pivotal occasion to encourage visitors to come to the islands to celebrate their own special events.
While the lagging U.S. economy has been in focus lately, lower levels of consumer spending have been reported in destinations worldwide. As a result, most visitors will continue to need an extra push in 2009 if the state hopes to get them to book luxury-branded Hawaii vacations or business trips.
There's no doubt that the slumping economy has impacted Hawaii's visitor industry, said Jay Talwar, senior vice president of marketing for the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.
"The consumer feels they are less able to afford travel due to economic conditions," Talwar said, adding that this sentiment has translated into fewer bookings for Hawaii and has narrowed the pool of future travelers.
In the latest Travel Industry Association air travelers sentiment poll, 75 percent of those queried in April 2008 said they perceived travel as less affordable compared to 55 percent in April 2007, he said.
In addition, 36 percent of Americans surveyed in June by the U.S. Conference Board said they plan to take a take a vacation trip during the next six months, Talwar said.
"That's the lowest level of vacation intentions in 30 years," he said. "There's a perception that a Hawaii vacation is unaffordable by a segment of our target customers."
Changes in the economy and the travel industry are impacting Hawaii's international source markets, too. Only Korea, China and Taiwan are poised for strong growth in the coming year as they benefit from continued strength in the Asian economy and increased ease of access to Hawaii.
Despite currency advantages, European travelers continue to eye destinations along the Indian Ocean that provide easier accessibility with direct flights, lower rates and shorter flight time.
"Hawaii is perceived to be a faraway destination with a high price performance-ratio," said Christine Klien, an account manager with Hawaii Tourism Europe, which includes the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy and Ireland.
Since traveling to the islands has become more of a luxury, Japanese travelers may reserve overseas trips in 2009 for special occasions, said Takashi Ichikura, executive director of Hawaii Tourism Japan.
"We want travelers to identify Hawaii as a special place to celebrate an anniversary," Ichikura said.
While Hawaii Tourism Japan will also launch the "So Much More Hawaii," campaign along with other island source markets, the long-struggling Japan market has also created the "Hawaii in my Life. ... My Anniversary Hawaii..." campaign, which seeks to target travelers that desire an once-in-a-lifetime vacation.
The Hawaii's meetings, convention and incentive market is also hoping to leverage Hawaii's upcoming anniversary.
"It's a great opportunity to create top-of-the-mind awareness for Hawaii," said Neil J. Mullanaphy, executive director of sales and marketing for SMG, the Hawaii Convention Center's marketer.