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The Kohala Coast boasts eight hotels and resorts, year-round sunshine and a handy home base for getting to know Hawaii Island.
But ever since Kilauea volcano’s high-profile eruption in May, the Kohala Coast and the island have dealt with the misconception that it’s not safe to visit.
Even though the lava flows and earthquakes have subsided, and portions of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park reopened on Sept. 22, tourism and occupancies have taken a hit.
In response, members of the Kohala Coast Resort Association (KCRA) have joined forces to boost travel to the island’s northwest shore. Pat Fitzgerald, who doubles as both CEO of Hualalai Resort and director of KCRA, shares some tips to help travel agents sell the destination.How is KCRA addressing the current downturn in tourism numbers?We’re emphasizing that our location is 100 miles from the recent lava flow in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. That is approximately the same distance as Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, Calif., or New York City to Philadelphia.
We’re also promoting the fact that the Big Island is a destination for travelers to experience nature, naturally. Visitors come to the island precisely for its awe-inspiring landscape that is vibrant and alive — active volcanoes included. On the 4,000-square-mile Big Island, you can visit all but four of the world’s different climate zones, ranging from wet tropical to polar tundra. The Big Island is an unrivaled expression of the beauty and power of nature that leaves those who visit it humbled and inspired.
How is the air quality along the Kohala Coast these days?It’s refreshing! This morning, when I drove down the road toward the hotels, the sky was clear-blue, and the water was sparkling. For clients who may be a bit skeptical, many of our Kohala Coast resorts have 24-hour webcams that travelers can check out to see with their own eyes just how great the air quality is.
What types of clients are best suited for visits to the Kohala Coast? With something for everyone, the Kohala Coast is defined by signature experiences, luxury accommodations, place-inspired activities, volcanic heritage and natural beauty. It features world-class golf courses and superior shopping, dining and spa offerings. For adventurous clients, it’s also an ideal starting point for exploring the vastness of the island.
How has the volcano affected flights from the U.S. West Coast to the Kohala Coast? The increased volcanic activity earlier this year led to a moderate drop in bookings for close-in travel, primarily to Hilo on the east side of the island. However, advance bookings have been slowly improving as travelers learn that the lava activity was confined to a relatively small area, and we expect this trend to continue.
According to Brent Overbeek, senior vice president of revenue management and network planning for Hawaiian Airlines, the airline’s flights to and from the Big Island are operating as scheduled. This includes neighbor island service and its daily service between Los Angeles International Airport and Kona International Airport.
I can vouch for the fact that Hawaiian Airlines continues to offer the same high level of authentic Hawaiian hospitality as always, including complimentary meals.
How does KCRA assist travel agents in selling the Kohala Coast to their clients?KCRA has a wealth of tools for agents, including brochures, websites, photos, webcam links and more. We are happy to help agents build stronger relationships with their clients by facilitating strong relationships between them and our resort professionals.
We work closely with the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau, which offers agents a Destination Specialist program. Upon completion of the training program, agents receive opportunities for fam tours so they can experience our resorts for themselves.
The DetailsKohala Coast Resort Associationwww.kohalacoastresorts.com