It has become clear that striking the right balance for tourism in one of the world’s most popular destinations must go beyond good intentions and become part of public policy.
Redirecting Hawaii’s visitor economy toward one that balances the state’s natural and cultural assets, as well as the well-being of its communities and its profits, will require policy that could come down to voting in the coming years. . national elections in August 2022.
This is a key point that emerges from the public update that the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) gave last week, which focused on sharing details of the destination management organization’s recent efforts to combat overcrowding and how it is also putting implement community feedback that has been incorporated into destination-specific management action plans or so-called DMAP.
The road to overhauling Hawaii’s tourism industry remains long and as domestic tourists continue to misbehave or pressure the destination and the Hawaii Tourism Authority does its best, sThe gardism remains that only the tourist board can steer the industry towards a more responsible and community-minded path.
But the authority does not have all the powers necessary to ensure the state embraces sustainable tourism growth – a point the Hawaiian tourism chief made on Friday when answering a question from the audience about how the state will ensure the long-term preservation of Hawaii’s resources, which are critical for tourism.
“We have every right to demand this level of planning, sensitivity and awareness from each of our legislators and the administration,” said Hawaii Tourism Authority CEO John De Fries.
“Let me point out that next August everyone is running for office, so to the lawmakers you support, make it a major issue because everything we’ve talked about today needs to be backed by a policy It’s no secret that human conscience is always going to outstrip public policy and we simply need to close that gap.I urge you to get involved in our communities and get out there and vote.
Destination Specific Changes
The Hawaii Tourism Authority, in its update, reiterated the community’s involvement in the DMAP process, and that the solutions they have identified together are helping to relieve a variety of pressure points on the islands. .
Actions completed by DMAPs to date include, among others, launching GetAroundKauai and the Maui Aloha Shuttle for alternative transportation options, funding Hawaii’s Sustainable Tour Operator Certification Program, monitoring visitor numbers in sensitive areas, production of Covid health and safety brochures for Kauai. airport, relaunching the Go Hawaii app as well as the Hawaii Farms Trail app to provide residents and visitors the opportunity to participate in agricultural tourism activities, and hiring four part-time stewards to help to manage the Pololu Valley hotspot area on the island of Hawaii.
DMAP’s work and community responses have also necessitated the creation of a new role at the Hawaii Tourism Authority as part of the tourism board’s work to lead the industry responsibly – a Hawaiian brand manager. Although not part of the DMAPs, new ‘destination manager’ roles have also been created for each of the main islands, to help drive plans forward on the ground, coordinate community meetings and inform.
Data is also central to a better understanding of where tourism is headed, hence the new Symphony Dashboards, which monitors accommodation trends, as well as the main points of interest for tourists by island and their multi-island visit trends. Similar resident visitation data by county is also being tracked for the first time.
Not insignificantly, the Hawaii Tourism Board is now led for the first time by a trio of Native Hawaiian executives, including CEO De Fries, Brand Manager Kalani Ka’anā’anā and George Kam, president of Hawaii Tourism’s. Board of Directors.
Along with the authority’s destination management efforts, Hawaiian Airlines recently launched a new “Travel Pono” in-flight video and campaign in September, which airs upon landing, advising visitors how to act responsibly when flying. exploring Hawaii. It features advice shared by airline employees, from flight attendants to pilots, who also volunteer at various organizations in Hawaii.
Towards authentic experiences
Pushing for regenerative and conscious travel means innovating in the offer to travelers. Authenticity is where the market is headed, said HTA’s De Fries.
In fact, 76% of American travelers said they were willing to pay more for tourism experiences respectful of Native Hawaiian culture, according to a new study from the University of Hawaii. More than 70% are also in favor of supporting sustainable tourism experiences overall, which the survey says shows an increase since 2020 as “the younger generation is increasingly pushing towards sustainability”.
Travelers are also willing to pay more for it – over 35% are willing to pay an additional 10%, and almost 20% are willing to pay an additional 16%.
Additionally, nearly 80% of Americans said they were willing to pay more for locally grown food to support Hawaii’s agricultural industry, and nearly 40% said they would be willing to pay $11 % more on their restaurant bill. The majority of respondents were between the ages of 18 and 60, and 59% identified as white or Caucasian.
“Can we envision a future where we build the capacity to identify, train, qualify and certify local families to host a luau for 10 people or less in their homes at $200 per person? De Fries said Friday. “Would this be an authentic experience that someone would enjoy? The answer is yes.”
There’s only one place you can get authenticity, De Fries added. “It comes from the community, which is why partnering with the community is so important.
When domestic demand meets international
Domestic travel continues to be Hawaii’s largest visitor market. In August, 99% of the more than 722,000 visitors were from the continental United States, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. But officials said Friday they expect international travelers from Japan to return by the first quarter of 2022 and prepare.
So what will happen when the growing wave of domestic travelers meets the return of the deep-pocketed long-haul visitor?
It’s an ongoing dilemma for Hawaii as it continues to figure out how to shape traveler mindset toward sustainability and responsible behavior at destination, while implementing solutions to improve the quality of life for residents. .
Airline seat caps or airlines offering budget fare deals are not something the Hawaii Tourism Authority can control, De Fries said Friday in response to a question that has surfaced time and time again. Hawaii.
“We need to transform and reshape the greatest industry, not in a vacuum,” De Fries said. “We work in the area where the forces of free enterprise are at work…we can’t control all of this, but we have an obligation to establish where we believe the heart of Hawaii is and we constantly focus on this in hopes of raising the consciousness of the commercial operator, but also raising the consciousness of the potential traveller. »