A slight dip in tourism numbers is prompting the Hawaii Tourism Authority to target new markets. Officials say expanded markets into Asia, especially by Hawaiian Airlines, is changing the way Hawaii is marketed.
“Airlift has really dictated what we can do and how we can grow, and we have seen a tremendous increase in airseats from the international market,” said David Uchiyama, vice president of brand management for Hawaii Tourism Authority.
However, the airlines announced Thursday it will cut service to Taipei, Taiwan, and last week, it said flights to Fukuoka, Japan would stop this summer.
“We were pulling for and supporting Hawaiian Airlines on their efforts out of Fukuoka, and we’re really just sorry to see them leave, but historically that has been a one carrier market,” said Eric Takahata of Hawaii Tourism Japan.
“The HTA will continue to invest in the growth of Asia markets,” said Mike McCartney, Hawaii Tourism Authority president and CEO. “We are optimistic that international growth, not only in Asia but from other emerging markets, will have a long- term positive impact on Hawaii’s tourism economy.”
One problem is that international flights all land in Honolulu and getting those passengers to neighbor islands has proved difficult over the past year. Oahu saw more people this January than last January, but the same wasn’t true for neighbor islands. Maui visitors were down more than two percent, Kauai was off a little more than one percent and Hawaii Island was off nearly three percent.
In this case, timing may be everything. Most international flights arrive mid-morning, and clearing customs and immigration could lead to a three-hour wait for a neighbor island flight.
“If you are on vacation and you want to get to your vacation experience, you don’t want to be sitting around in the airport for three hours, so that is something that we’ve got to work on,” Uchiyama said.
New emerging markets, like Australia and New Zealand, are also making an impact on Hawaii’s visitors industry. Officials say a record 350,000 Australians and Kiwis visited the islands last year, a 28.5% increase from 2012.
“Our strategy in Australia and New Zealand is to really highlight the diversity, which is one of the thing Oceania visitors love,” said Ashlee Galea of Hawaii Tourism Oceania. “It’s the choice of six unique islands.”
Galea says a third of that market will visit a neighbor island while they’re here.