Inside the Hottest News From the Hawaii Tourism Conference
October 5, 2016
By: Joe Pike
|Photo by hipho/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images|
Fom the Aloha State‘s success in preventing the spread of the Zika virus to the rise of Airbnb to a push to get more tourists from the Northeast, Travel Agent breaks down the hottest news from our recently-concluded coverage of the Hawaii Tourism Conference, which is run by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA).
Here are the highlights from the show.
|George D. Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority|
Let Airbnb Be
As part of our coverage of the show, we sat down with George Szigeti, president and CEO of the HTA, and chatted about the impact that Airbnb is having on Hawaii tourism.
Szigeti says, like most destinations that are becoming dominated by the Airbnb craze, Hawaii hotels and tourism representatives have embraced the phenomenon, but would just like to see the company enforce more regulations and “pay their fair share of taxes.”
“I think the hotels just want to see an even playing field and would like to see Airbnb pay their fair share of taxes,” says Szigeti, “but other than that, we think it can actually be a great asset. When we have conferences like this one and we are scrambling to try and find rooms for everyone, Airbnb can really help.”
Szigeti did note, however, that he would like to see Airbnb monitor its process more. For example, Szigeti told us he recently spoke to a German family who just arrived to find that their Airbnb accommodation looked nothing like it did on the Internet.
“The experience people have still means a lot to us because we want them coming back year after year after year,” he says, “so I would like to see Airbnb doing a better job of making sure stuff like that doesn’t happen.”
Zika Hasn’t Hurt Hawaii Tourism
And Szigeti gives all the credit to the successful “Fight the Bite” campaign, a Hawaii State Department of Health initiative that educates both residents and visitors on how to take measures to prevent Zika transmission.
“We have been very proactive on the issue,” says Szigeti. “We basically just tell visitors, ‘You’re already used to using sunscreen, now get used to using mosquito repellent, that’s all.’ And we’ve given residents tips on reducing leaks in their backyards or if you have something like an old tire sitting in the back just collecting water, get rid of it. Just simple measures like that help.”
Szigeti told Travel Agent that both the HTA and the Hawaii Visitors and Conventions Bureau (HVCB) are aggressively targeting the Millennial market with several new products and initiatives.
“I was telling everyone earlier today at the breakfast that Baby Boomers are the ones who got us here, who put Hawaii on the map and now it’s their children who are continuing that success for us,” he says. “A lot of what we want to do to further draw this market revolves mostly around promoting authentic experiences and technology.”
One such product is the newly launched Hawaii virtual reality experience, “Hawaii VR.” In a first for promoting travel to the Hawaiian Islands, the HTA unveiled the new feature during the conference, which runs through September 30. It includes 360-degree live-action footage.
“The reason we are popular with Millennials is that Millennials are very conscious of what destinations protect its natural resources,” says Szigeti, “and for Hawaii, culture and protecting our natural resources are our two pillars of strength.”
HVCB to Aggressively Target East Coast Travelers
Szigeti told us that the HVCB is aggressively pursuing East Coast marketing efforts with a focus on New York City. Although Szigeti didn’t have an exact date for the launch of that campaign, he did tell Travel Agent he expects it to start before the end of the year.
“We have been seeing an increase from visitors from East Coast mainly because of everything that is going on in the world today,” says Szigeti. “Hawaii is one of those places that people perceive as being safe, clean and fun.”
Internationally, Szigeti says the Europe market has been on the rise for Hawaii, prompting the the Aloha State to look into adding new, direct flights from the continent. Australia and New Zealand are also doing quite well as of late, says Szigeti.
Big Island Visitors Bureau Officially Changes Its Name
After years of trying to change its name to better reflect the destination it represents, the Big Island Visitors Bureau is now the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB).
At the conference, we sat down with Ross Birch, executive director of IHVB, and chatted about the significance of the name change.
“If you’ve been to Hawaii Island before, we don’t care what you call us,” says Birch. “You can call us ‘The Big Island’ or whatever else you want, but Hawaii Island is always looking to attract the visitor who has never been to Hawaii. And for those visitors, ‘The Big Island,’ is confusing.”
Because Hawaii’s main airport is Honolulu International Airport on Oahu, many people just assumed “The Big Island” referred to Oahu, says Birch.
“I feel like we’ve been selling Oahu for 20 years,” joked Birch.
Birch told Travel Agent the name change was officially approved back in August.
“The name ‘The Big Island’ we felt just took away from that cultural connection we have,” says Birch. “Hawaii Island is a place made of cultural practitioners. And ‘The Big Island’ didn’t reflect that.”
LGBT Tourism Expert: Waikiki Is Hawaii’s “Epicenter for Gay Men”
Photo by delamofoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Image
Later during the event, we chatted with Thomas Roth, president of Community Marketing & Insights, and learned what is hot in Hawaii for the LGBT traveler.
According to Roth, Waikiki is the hottest spot in Hawaii for the gay traveler.
“With its shopping and nightlife, Waikiki is always the epicenter for gay men,” says Roth. “Now, that’s just gay men. Lesbians prefer more adventure-driven islands.”
What’s Trending in the Mainland?
Roth told Travel Agent that, although most of the U.S. has already heavily embraced the LGBT tourist, there are still some states that are just starting to gain some steam in the market.
Roth says Louisville, KY; Richmond, VA; and Philadelphia, PA, are three cities that are getting hot for LGBT travel.