88% Of Visitors Rated Hawaii “Excellent.” Surprising Data.

The latest research from the state of Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) and the HTA is out, and the result may surprise you. Especially following more than 300 heated comments this weekend about how the state wants visitors to experience Hawaii, including that the state “Does Not Encourage Visiting:” Waikiki, Diamond Head, Volcanoes, Poipu, Etc.

Visitors who rated their most recent trip to Hawaii as “excellent” included 88% of US West visitors, 89% of US East visitors, and 80% of Canadian visitors. With any survey, you need to look at how it was conducted and if the researchers had any bias in the outcome.

According to HTA, “Monthly samples of visitors who stayed for at least two days were drawn from the completed Domestic In-Flight database (forms visitors filled out). Selected U.S. visitors were sent an email invitation with a link to complete the survey online. Surveys were also conducted by trained interviewers with departing visitors from Korea at the Daniel K. Inouye Airport in Honolulu.

The study, shown below, came from DBEDT and the HTA and was conducted by Anthology Marketing, which company is closely aligned with HTA. In 165 pages of long data stream you can peruse for yourself (below), the state ranked visitor satisfaction among thousands of east and west coast Hawaii visitors in late 2022.

HTA CEO John De Fries was ecstatic about the study:

Visitors’ expressed interest in returning to Hawaii speaks to the quality experience provided by our industry and community partners and the individuals who engage with travelers throughout the state. We continue to educate visitors about how to travel mindfully, including ways they can support local businesses, preserve our islands’ natural and cultural resources, and make meaningful connections.”

Long-time Hawaii HTA partner Anthology Marketing Group performed the study for the state.

The survey, performed by long-term partner Anthology, corroborated HTA’s assertion that they are doing a great job. And that comes while the state legislature actively looks to disband HTA entirely or otherwise reduce its powers. The juxtaposition of this survey and where HTA stands today strikes us as odd.

Anthology has been awarded various contracts by HTA for years, with ones we are aware of including “HTA Website Support Services” and “Public Relations, Communications, and Outreach Services.” That, in addition to visitor surveys. It did make us wonder why a more independent, less affiliated company wasn’t employed since there is a close relationship between Anthology and troubled HTA as well as the timing with the legislature’s intense scrutiny.

The results were from October through December 2022 and included 4,845 visitors from US West and US East, Canada, Japan, Oceania, Korea, and China.

Are visitors planning to return to Hawaii? Mostly yes.

The survey indicated that most visitors plan to return to Hawaii, with 60% saying it was very likely. US West coast visitors had the highest (81%) likely to return score, far better than the 65% score of US East coast visitors.

Hawaii overall has enjoyed a very high rate of return visitors for decades. So it was no surprise that repeat visitors showed a greater likelihood of returning than first-timers.

In HTA’s words, “Visitor satisfaction is a Key Performance Indicator of the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s Strategic Plan.”

Is it curtains for HTA? Perhaps.

The Hawaii legislature hopes to reign in or eliminate the 25-year-old HTA, with some saying it is irrelevant and others saying it has completed what it intended to do, which was to market Hawaii. We’ll follow how the related measures track through the legislature.

HTA also suffers great internal dissonance and continues to see staff and executives routinely depart with positions left unfilled. The latest high-placed executive to leave was the person responsible for managing the hotly contested U.S. marketing contracts.

Did Hawaii exceed the expectations of visitors? Mostly not.

Only 43% of all-important US West Coast visitors felt that way about their vacation. 51% of US East visitors, 44% of Canadian visitors, and 32% of Oceania visitors felt Hawaii exceeded expectations.

Will visitors recommend Hawaii to others? Mostly yes.

89% of US West and US East visitors, 87% of Canadian visitors, and 79% of Oceania visitors said they would recommend Hawaii vacations.

How would you have responded?


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37 thoughts on “88% Of Visitors Rated Hawaii “Excellent.” Surprising Data.”

  1. I would have responded to the questionnaire with mostly positive feedback. Hawaii is a Rare Beauty in the Pacific. The probability of returning, as a 1st time visitor, would be relatively High, 85% or Better. My Enjoyment would depend on what I do, I immerse myself in the cultural experiences therefore 95%. Unless I am confronted by adversarial residents I would certainly pass along to others that Hawaii is perfect for a vacation, 98%, otherwise below 60%. Overall Hawaii, for a 1 time vacation or more, depends on whether you choose to afford it, the prices can discourage some from returning. The HTA has outlived its usefulness and now is simply a money pit. The Agency needs to be Discontinued Permanently and Immediately.

  2. So let me try this one more time!!! My husband and I decided to get married back in 2011. We had an amazing time.every year for our Anniversary we would alternate islands with Kauai or Oahu! Always had a wonderful time! People were so very nice never a sad or rude person. We didn’t go for two years due to Covid. Finally going 2022 to Kauai, we witnessed rude behavior towards filipinos that were much older. (70-80) this happened on the fern grotto.. on the boat a singer also made fun of people from the mainland for not dancing. Not all people were there to dance. Witnessing this and being at the ABC Store there was another incident! Employees at the condo in Kapaa were also short and rude tempered .. for me I was saddened by this! Aloha 🥲

  3. for me the Hawaii is da bomb, I luv it there. I go once or twice a year. at the very least to warm the old bones up.

    1. I understand how you feel but if we keep coming and pay the higher prices that stress getting higher they will continue to rise and shut out many people even the wee to do. We need to go other places for this to work. I’m sure you don’t like being gouged.

      1. Alternating between vacation destinations would work if there were considerably less Tourists going to Hawaii. Even if Hawaii was one of 8 different places and everyone were to alternate it wouldn’t be enough to change the increasing prices, Hawaii needs more money year over year consistently, look at the Hole they are in already. Hawaii Needs to overhaul their monetary priorities, eliminate programs, increase property taxes across the board, and become solvent before anything Good and Positive can begin to happen.

  4. I have to say that I love visiting Oahu and all the neighboring islands. I always feel the aloha spirit and so do my family members who join my husband and I while we visit Oahu. The locals are friendly or just keep to themselves. There is a sense of caring for others. I will never forget , while on Oahu, my hubby and I went running for 6 miles and he was running back and forth to me (since I run slower). A local thought he was chasing me, and stopped to ask me if I was okay. I felt so cared for at that moment. I have fallen before and no one stopped to help on the mainland.

    1. Oahu, that’s where I have vacationed 8 times and counting, where my wife and I were married in 2010, the only Island that I have been to. The friendships that I have made and maintain to this day were simply by chance. Most people are friendly, concerned if there’s a good reason, and helpful. Some tourists will find this to be a Refreshing Change to the disassociative nature found in large cities and other areas. Have you heard that many times The Love You Give Is The Love You Get? All too often it’s True! I am more of a Visitor than a Tourist, I have family that Owns a House in Kahala. I still find “New” places to enjoy, pieces of History to educate myself with, and the occasional new acquaintance that may become a Friendship.

  5. My beloved Hawaii is gone….we have been traveling to Hawaii for decades. We always came for the culture and history of the Islands. Oahu has lost most of that, International Market Place used to be a fun place. Now it is all about the high priced fancy named stores for the wealthy. We lived on Maui for a year and loved every minute. Now if you want to visit a Park you have to make reservations and pay, if you want to go to Big Beach you have to pay to park for a public beach. If you want to just walk around the Whaler’s Village you pay dearly to park your car. And beautiful Front Street had many little places to shop for Hawaiian themed items. Now the “leaches” are trying to pull you into there store with makeup.

    1. The disintegration of areas of Oahu have led to areas of much higher crime than had existed previously. International Way is one of those areas that I have heard Constantly Mentioned. Prior to its “upgraded” shops and goods there was the occasional petty theft, it was relatively safe to go there. The “New and Improved” International Way has brought much of the same goods at higher prices along with some new shops with their wares. Unfortunately the Crime Statistics have Risen Sharply and continues to disappoint. Is it the layout as some point to, the higher prices, a combination, or something totally different? As a note, every major city that has had a revamped area like this has the same exact problem. Some changes are Not Beneficial!

  6. Can understand why more visitors from the West coast of the US would return more than the East coast. Non stop from the west coast and depending where on the east coast people are flying from, there most likely one stop or more extending the travel time. The five hour time difference is another reason.

  7. I use to love the Aloha felt once arriving in the islands. After planning our anniversary vacation for 2022 we arrived on Kauai. Attitude and hostility was all we witnessed throughout the beautiful island we grew to love. Heartbreaking and deciding never to return to an island we love! Island people have grown resentful and aggressive towards people from the mainland. My husband and I married on Oahu, Waimanalo. We returned every year! Never again! Definitely did not feel aloha!!

  8. I would have to see the actual questions and the methodology employed for selecting respondents. I imagine people who were not happy with their experiences would be iess likely to want to participate.

    1. That’s the opposite of my experience. In general, people who don’t like something, have a problem, are angry, etc. are more likely to vent their ire on a survey or, on places like this.

  9. As a person raised in Texas to say please and thank you, yes ma’am and no sir, I also know when you are not welcome. I won’t be back, ever, because our hosts militantly don’t want us in Hawaii. If any Hawaiians find themselves in Texas they can get a free lesson in friendliness, politeness, generosity, and hospitality, you know, “aloha”.

    1. I’m also a Texan and I felt welcome by all the people I encountered on all the islands I visited. I haven’t been to Niihau and Kahoolawe. Who were your hosts? We stayed at the Ilima in Waikiki, an Outrigger in Lahaina, hotel Molokai and hotel Lanai. We took day trips to Kauai and the Big Island.

    2. Well “bless your Texas heart!”

      I’m a transplant from Illinois, living in Texas. Texans may seem friendly but they are total hypocrites, nice to your face but talking and making fun behind your back. I’ve been to Hawaii numerous times, staying at 5 star hotels, AirBnB’s, & have encountered nothing but pleasantness, courtesy and helpfulness. Texans could use a few lessons, in kindness, from Hawaiians.

      1. You must be talking to Michael P. I see your problem right away. You’re a transplant from Illinois. You know the motto in Texas is: Welcome to Texas. Now go home. And it’s common knowledge that there is a difference between a Yankee and a darn Yankee. The Yankee comes to visit and goes home. The darn Yankee comes and stays. I would have used another d word but profanity isn’t allowed. I was also taught to say ma’am and sir. I’m sure we have all been guilty of backbiting and gossip at one time or the other. Texas doesn’t claim to perfect as no other place is either. I especially try not to be two faced because I feel that is especially frowned on in the Bible. Say what you mean and mean what you say. God bless Texas!

  10. In 2018 I was rushed to Queen’s Hospital for a spinal cord injury. Since then I’ve had to go around Hawaii in a wheelchair and generally speaking it is Not ADA accessible.
    I’m not surprised by the results of the survey, although I think having HTA and their marketing company in charge is self-serving.

    That being said there’s no other place in the U.S. like Hawaii and unless they continue to get away with a $500 tax for a two week stay I can see the disappointment with the gouging public officials. When I read about major disappointment with Hawaii it always mentions the various huge taxes gouging visitors. My family doesn’t want to come like they used to because they want a rental car and those are outrageous in costs.

    1. My son has Cerebral Palsy and uses a wheelchair. We found lots to do even in a wheelchair. There were some restrictions but I expected that. We went on a sunset boat ride. We visited Pearl Harbor. We never needed a rental car. On Oahu we rode the bus. It was inexpensive and went to many places on the island. We went on top of Haleakala. We stayed at Lahaina and walked and took a cab back to our hotel from a luau. We took a train in Lahaina. We took tours to Kauai and the Big Island in wheelchair accessible vans. There use to a shuttle that went around Lanai and a company called Molokai Outdoors escorted us on that island.

    2. Just to clarify, I meant my family doesn’t want to come to visit us due to the cost. We have actually considered having relatives chip in to purchase an extra vehicle for when they are visiting, just to avoid government gouging on taxes and exorbitant rental car costs. My last guests used Turo for the first time and cut their costs by almost 50%!

      And I agree with some comments here regarding the Aloha spirit. It is still present by and large, but as has been said so many times this isn’t Disney World. However, if the only exposure you have to locals are doormen and bellboys, being Aloha is a condition of employment. If you want to get a local flare go to a neighborhood for a plate lunch. See how the hosts treat you outside Waikiki.

  11. We visit Hawaii every year for a couple of weeks – always one week in Maui and another week on one of the other islands. I was a little apprehensive about our trip this year in January because it seemed like there were so many negative/weird things going on with tourism, like the idea that tourists aren’t really welcome, issues with inadequate service at restaurants, etc. But we were the recipients of a lot of aloha everywhere we went, and once again we fell in love with Hawaii. I will say that it felt significantly more crowded than what I ever remember over 25 years of visits. It seems like people are truly loving Hawaii and returning in droves. Maybe the survey results are accurate!

    1. Perhaps the issue is that BoH has a lot of “complainers” posting, and not a lot of the people that are/were happy with their Hawaii vacations. You really have to be careful when you draw conclusions from social media. Good surveys/studies (and I’m not saying this one was) adjust for bias, and ensure that the sample is random. That’s not the case with social media comments.

  12. I have always enjoyed my trips to Hawaii. I had my son with me. He uses a wheelchair. We would have done more had he not been in the chair. What we did do though was great. We went on an Outrigger canoe. We visited Pearl Harbor, the Dole Plantation and the north shore. I took him on Haleakala. I had done my homework. We came prepared-with long pants and jackets on! All the hotels we stayed at were good for wheelchairs. One of the front desk clerks told me she would have visitors tell her they were disappointed in the weather at times! She didn’t have much say about what the weather did! We would love to come back to Hawaii. I would not have planned a trip during Covid because of masks on the whole 8 hour flight/10 day hotel quarantine.

    1. Carol, those restrictions have been gone for 2022 and 2023. You can come over to Hawaii if you desire without any testing, quarantine and masks are optional.

  13. I think if the state legislature passes the increase in taxes for visitors- doubling the rate – there may be a change in the percent which favor the visitation. Hawaii vacations for east coast folks is very expensive already. Yo increase taxes snd fees which have been proposed will decrease the number of people thinking about thinking of re-visits.

    1. It would be interesting to know the numbers of who visits from the east coast. I’d be surprised that those on a limited budget would travel from the east coast. I’d think Mexico and the Caribbean would be more attractive.

  14. They rated their last visit as excellent but none of the proposed new tax or discouragement of seeing many sights affected them. If the tax goes into effect HTA needs to take another survey. Also we don’t know who they surveyed. Was it guests in high end hotels that are considered “rich” or guests in overpriced condos?

    1. Just curious about your “overpriced condos” comment. Most condos have double the space for half the price of a hotel. Are you referring to a particular condo complex that is overpriced, or…?

      1. The price of condos has gone up 200-300% since2019. This is what I have seen in Kaanapali. It hasn’t gone up as much, but still increased greatly in places like Kihei. I love condos for the extra room and kitchen. I’ve been coming every year since 2005 and staying in condos every year and the prices the last 2 years have been outrageous in my opinion. Sadly we are looking at alternatives to the Hawaiian islands. We’ve also experienced steep price increases on the Big Island in Kohala. I’m not familiar with Kona since we don’t stay there.

  15. Without a doubt, there is something incredibly special about Hawaiʻi and there is only so much Hawaiʻi to go around, making it even more special. Despite the real and potential damage to the “brand,” we are not yet close to realizing any impact. We must not take this for granted. Lack of aloha embodied by “Welcome! Spend! Go home!” and generally unfriendly attitudes could change things in the future. We can’t afford that.

    1. Instead of assuming the data is correct, we should be questioning it.

      The data, especially considering who performed the survey and under what circumstances, is suspect. The HTA is fighting for its life at this particular moment in time, and a lot is at stake.

      I think this might be what BOH is alluding to, since these results fly directly in the face of the actions of the governments and what many have witnessed and felt on the islands as of late.

  16. You know that old saying that if something appears too good to be true then it probably isn’t! Well, if Ever there was a reason to apply that saying to something it would be the results of this survey! Any time you get results that are so skewed one way or the other then you are probably looking at something is not quite right with their methodology, the questions they asked, or how the wording of the questions was phrased. If ever there was a need for an outside statistical analysis firm to take a look at the study then this is the one! In college we had a little text book that was used in statistical analysis that was titled “How To Lie With Statistics”! And of course the people that put up the $’s for the study are elated!

  17. First, I’ve been coming to Hawaii for decades and don’t have the expectation that the hospitality staff members are my slaves. I’ve been to Hawaii, perhaps 30 times. I’d rather go somewhere else, but my wife does not want to leave the USA. My closest favorite is Cancun – but Mexico is on her do not visit again because of crime and cartels. For me, I’ve never been to a more tourist friendly place than Cancun, followed by Manila ans Cairo.

    Hawaii is just fine, not great on hospitality, but quite acceptable. And it’s hard to beat the weather.

    As to the 88% rating, not a surprise. Some save for years to make this $10,000 to $20,000 family vacation. Does anyone think they will say it sucked, I wasted 10-20k. Doubt it.

    1. Very well put. You expressed my thoughts exactly re: amount spent vs. resulting satisfaction, but I didn’t know how to articulate it. After all, if you decide spend 20K, and it ends up sucking, what does that say about your decision-making prowess?

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