Garden Island Chocolate has a new self-guided farm tour. // © 2018 Koa Kahili
Feature image (above): Four Seasons Oahu’s hike to remote Kaena Point goes off the beaten track. // © 2018 HTA/Tor Johnson
As exotic destinations vie for your clients’ attention, it might be tempting to overlook Hawaii. But we suggest you don’t. The Aloha State is monitoring and responding to the pulse of the global tourism industry to stay fresh and vital for a universe of travelers.
For 2018, Hawaii officials are particularly tracking the following five trends, and travel agents can benefit by doing the same.
As island residents perpetuate Hawaii’s heritage, visitors are finding it easier than ever to dig into the culture themselves.
“There has been a shift in focus to more personal fulfillment through travel,” said Robyn Basso, senior director of travel industry partnerships for Hawaii Tourism United States. “There’s no better way to achieve that than through pursuing deeper connections with the people and customs of the destination.”
Clients seeking meaningful cultural activities can try Holokino Hawaii, an Oahu sailing adventure patterned after traditional, non-instrument navigation. Or, they can check out Maui Surf Lessons, which teaches guests the art of canoe surfing, a centuries-old sport with modern appeal.
Resorts are opening new cultural doors, as well. During Prince Waikiki’s Prince Connects series, local artists and leaders discuss ideas, stories and experiences with guests. Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach demonstrates how to harvest taro and pound poi, and The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas, Kaanapali now hosts one-hour cultural presentations relevant to Maui.
Millennial travelers are eager to establish a heartfelt relationship with the local community through highly curated, genuine experiences, Basso notes.
“Unlike the generations before them who enjoyed group activities led by tour guides, millennials prefer a custom itinerary that offers exclusive opportunities,” she said.
Clients who wish to avoid more standard attractions and tours might want to head to Molokai. There, Halawa Valley Falls Cultural Hike presents authentic, immersive hikes with guides who were born and raised in the area, which few tourists see. Visitors also can explore the mellow island courtesy of Molokai Bicycle, which supplies various types of two-wheelers for sightseeing on- and off-road.
Among hotels that are honoring the tourist-aversion trend is Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina. The luxury property recently started leading guests on a spiritual sunrise walk to remote Kaena Point, the westernmost tip of the island and home to a colony of Laysan albatross.
According to Basso, travelers are salivating over Hawaii’s diverse cuisine thanks to farm tours, food festivals and interactive programs.
“Hawaii’s new generation of chefs are constantly producing deliciously innovative culinary concepts, events and hands-on experiences for visitors,” she said.
For instance, Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort has debuted a monthly offering called Soar + Savor. Guests take a 75-minute helicopter tour that touches down in the Hana rainforest, where they learn about the history and plants of the area. They then return to the hotel for an intimate cooking class that incorporates fresh produce from Hana farmers.
Other tasty novelties include Mauna Kea Resort’s Legacy Dinner Series, which features food and beverages from around Hawaii; a self-guided farm tour at Garden Island Chocolate; and Koa Kea Hotel & Resort’s Taste of Kauai package, which comes with a dinner showcasing local ingredients.
Romance remains a robust but still-growing market for Hawaii, Basso says.
“Hawaii’s stunning landscapes provide an abundance of unique venues for destination weddings,” she said. “Hotels offer comprehensive honeymoon packages, and there’s no shortage of romantic activities throughout the islands.”
New options for lovers include Four Seasons Resort Lanai’s Picnic Under the Stars. Ideally suited for an island with minimal light pollution, it takes guests on a dreamy search for heavenly bodies as they sip prosecco and sample desserts.
Maui’s Montage Kapalua Bay is promoting Love is in the Air, a $25,000, three-night package pampering twosomes with delights such as spa treatments and a helicopter trip to Oahu for ring shopping. On Hawaii Island, Holualoa Inn caters to couples with its Unforgettable Proposal package, with indulgences such as champagne, chocolates and a swim under a private waterfall.
Increasingly, clients are asking for pastimes that allow them to give back to their vacation destination. For them, Hawaii makes a great choice.
“Travelers are making it a priority to identify volunteer opportunities that help them reduce their environmental footprint in the places they’re visiting,” Basso said.
On Oahu, clients can help restore an ancient fishpond during community work days with Paepae o Heeia. On Maui, Pacific Whale Foundation’s Volunteers on Vacation program encourages visitors to join in on service projects at scenic locations such as Haleakala National Park, Honokowai Valley and Oo Farm.
Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii coordinates fun beach cleanups around the islands. It also provides corporate groups with memorable team-building events focusing on voluntourism.