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Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) is charged with one mission: to protect the Hawaii brand. Although it seems like the iconic islands are second to none as a visitor destination, HTA remains proactive as it manages all phases of tourism, from preserving the natural environment and perpetuating the local culture to enriching the state’s communities.
Last December, HTA saw a changing of the guard in several top positions, including the appointment of Karen Hughes as vice president of marketing and product development. We asked Hughes to share her thoughts on promoting the Aloha State to potential visitors.
What do you see as your biggest challenges at HTA?Tourism is the engine that drives Hawaii’s economy. It is important that we manage the delicate balance of keeping that engine running strong while making sure that we minimize the impact on the environment and our community. That will take continued focus and is a challenging balancing act.
What types of travelers are you targeting with your marketing efforts?Hawaii is an amazingly diverse destination, with so much to see and do. It is easy to get from one island to another. We are targeting visitors who are eager to engage in all that the islands have to offer, from spectacular scenery to unique cultural experiences. Hawaii’s reliable year-round weather is great not only for travelers who come here to enjoy the outdoors, but also for clients seeking farm-to-table culinary experiences, festivals and events, and voluntourism opportunities.
Is there any specific market you want to tap that isn't currently being addressed?Hawaii has tremendous brand awareness and loyalty. In 2018, more than 67 percent of travelers to Hawaii were repeat visitors. Our contractor for the U.S. market, the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau (HVCB), has been working hard to introduce the Hawaii brand to new audiences — such as the avid traveler — through multiple social media initiatives, so that a new generation can get to know and love Hawaii for years to come.
What news and trends should travel advisors keep an eye on to help them sell Hawaii?New and increased airline service to the Hawaiian Islands will provide more choices for travelers. Hawaiian Airlines just launched nonstop flights from Boston to Honolulu, with five-day-a-week service. Southwest Airlines' recent entry into the Hawaii market began with its Oakland, Calif.-to-Honolulu route. Additional Southwest flights from the San Francisco Bay Area to Maui, Kauai and Hawaii Island will begin in the coming months.
On the hotel front, agents can anticipate the late 2019 opening of Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection, on Hawaii Island. Formerly known as Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows, the property is currently closed and undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation. In addition, The Lodge at Koele on Lanai from Four Seasons Hotels Hotels and Resorts is slated to reopen later this year.
What are your key messages to agents who want to sell Hawaii?Hawaii has six distinctive islands to choose from and offers a myriad of natural wonders and rich, exotic culture, all with the ease and convenience of travel within the U.S. Advisors should take full advantage of all the educational opportunities that HVCB has in place so that they can become true Hawaii experts.
I started in this business as a travel agent nearly 40 years ago, and I have a deep appreciation for what advisors do. I also know that consumers are overwhelmed with choices and information, so knowing how to simplify the vacation-shopping process is a money-making skill. Selling Hawaii in the right way ensures a happy return customer who will also become an agent’s best source of advertising.
The DetailsHawaii Tourism Authoritywww.hawaiitourismauthority.org