Recently the Hawaii Tourism Board release figures that showed tourist arrivals were down 20% for June, July & August of 2009 compared to the year prior. That’s a considerable drop by any measure. The instant thought that crossed my mind was how this was affecting the many great Hawaiian families dependent on tourism.
Hawaii is still my favorite destination. Its home, English is the spoken language, I can drink the water safely, the beaches are among the best in the world and there are so many great restaurants to choose. Being in the travel business for many years, I have been to Hawaii numerous times. I have particular hotels I like and I patronize them over and over. I tend do the same things every time I go. In Waikiki, I stay at the Reef on the Beach, climb Diamond Head, visit Pearl Harbor, enjoy Paradise Cove Luau and drive around the island.
But frankly speaking Hawaii is a bit of a tough sell right now. I just looked at a top travel wholesaler and found the least expensive package to Waikiki from Los Angeles was $399 for a three night vacation. The least expensive package to Mexico was: $239. That’s $320 more for a couple. Ok, maybe Mexico’s not your thing. How about a cruise? 3-night cruises from Los Angeles are available for $199 per person plus port taxes. Price is critical in today’s economic environment. Hawaii is priced at the top of the available vacation options. The hotels have spent millions upgrading and renovating. Now, as they as they try to hold prices to recoup their investments, people choose lesser priced vacation options. That puts them in a difficult spot.
So what can the Hawaii tourism folks do to get people like me to consider a vacation to their islands? Give me a reason to go back!
Let’s establish that a large majority of people who vacation in Hawaii have done so before. The have already been and some more than twice. This is especially true of west coast travelers. However, this is the path to success: Focus on the experiential aspect of what Hawaii has to offer.
The Hawaii travel industry needs to create and market vacations that include new experiences and not simply air & hotel packages. Leader pricing has its place for sure, but consider how an air, hotel, zip-lining, snorkeling, bicycling & nature hiking sounds like a lot more fun! Hawaii is one of the culinary capitals of the world, so put together restaurant and culinary arts tours meeting with the top chefs. Creativity and promotion is the key. In fact with this recession threatening to drag out over years, it is critical that Hawaii wake up from its slumber. Especially for all the families that depend on tourism for their livelihood.