Hawaii Tourism Authority Now Says U.S. Mainland Visitors Desperately Needed!

Hawaii Tourism Authority Now Says U.S. Mainland Visitors Desperately Needed!

In a marked shift from its recent focus on diversifying visitor demographics largely internationally, the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) is reported to now be steering its collective marketing efforts back to the U.S. mainland. Is this too little, too late, or just the right time?

If this makes you shake your head, it does us as well. Can the HTA with Mufi Hanneman spearheading it, help lead Hawaii to the travel marketing success it needs and now says it wants?

U.S. mainland visitors were an audience for HTA to easily keep engaged, rather than letting them slide for so long. Who knows, maybe Governor Green will even speak out next about the importance of U.S. mainland visitors returning to Hawaii.

This strategic pivot reflects an obvious but previously elusive critical reassessment of its target markets. Hawaii now seeks to encourage the state’s most important tourism sector amidst global shifts and abounding local challenges.

The long-awaited shift in focus to U.S. mainland visitors.

This may be a case of “we love you, we really do,” but we forgot to tell you.

Historically, the HTA and its partner for this initiative, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB), have cast a wide net, seeking to attract visitors first and foremost from the U.S. and then international visitors from Canada, Japan and elsewhere.

More recently, however, their speak turned to “mindful and respectful” visitors from regions as far away as Europe. However, today’s persistent challenges and a pressing need for robust economic recovery fueled by Hawaii’s only industry, tourism, have returned the focus to the U.S. mainland—a region with well-proven potential, yet which seems to have been surprisingly neglected in past marketing strategies.

Recent initiatives aimed at enhancing the influx of Hawaii visitors from Europe, Japan, Canada, and other markets were largely failed following strategic explorations. With reality hitting, the need to re-calibrate marketing towards the traditional, reliable U.S. visitor streams has become apparent, even to Hawaii officials. The U.S. mainland visitor market, after all, represents almost four out of every five tourist dollars spent in Hawaii.

An upcoming program geared towards enticing mainland U.S. tourists back to Hawaii promises a blend of the familiar with a more gently peddled emphasis on sustainability and cultural respect—qualities that are increasingly important in the Hawaii tourism narrative.

Where did the drive for European and other less-obvious visitors come from?

The drive to diversify Hawaii’s tourism demographics was partly a response to perceived U.S. mainland over-tourism, a feeling among some that US visitors are less desirable, and the environmental and social strains tourism has brought to the islands.

Programs aimed at cultivating ‘mindful tourism’ were proclaimed in promotional materials but also had some basis in the reality of trying to manage the impact of Hawaii visitors. Despite these dubious efforts, the economic realities of Hawaii today have necessitated a pivot back to traditional markets.

With the imminent public announcement of a new initiative, “The People. The Place. The Hawaiian Islands,” the first news came at an HTA board meeting last week. Assuming expected state legislative funding is approved soon, this move is a return to Hawaii’s roots with some acknowledgment of lessons learned, good and bad. The public campaign will highlight everything that makes Hawaii unique while subtly promoting deeper visitor engagement. We’ll share the program details with you as soon as we see them.

Hawaii’s marketing re-focus comes with its own set of challenges.

While it reopens the door to the most obvious, vast, and accessible market, it also, for the first time, means Hawaii will need to navigate a more competitive U.S. domestic tourism market than in years past.

As you’ve said in thousands of comments, places including Mexico, Europe, Asia, and other domestic and international destinations have been resonating well with would be Hawaii visitors. There is also valid concern that the excessive costs associated with Hawaii vacations, first and foremost of which is accommodations, could potentially interfere with tourists’ return and thus temper the expected boost needed from this strategic shift. There also remains some perception that visitors aren’t wanted in Hawaii. And in addition to all of that, Hawaii’s tourism infrastructure is in dire need of an uplift to remain competitive.

The success of this marketing pivot will not only be measured by increased visitor numbers but also by the quality of Hawaii tourism and the mutual benefits possible for both tourists and Hawaii residents.

This will be fascinating to watch play out. Is it too late for this to help? Please share your thoughts.

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157 thoughts on “Hawaii Tourism Authority Now Says U.S. Mainland Visitors Desperately Needed!”

  1. I’ve traveled to Honolulu 17 times in my lifetime. I stopped traveling to Europe as a middle income earner for the Aloha spirit that welcomed me, the beauty and most of all the affordability (It was slightly more affordable than Europe). Fast forward to 2024 and this past January it hit square in the face, Honolulu has slowly priced me out. With the cost of everything, tax this, tax that, fee for this and that, bogus resort fees and soon hotels being the only game in town with the elimination of Air B and B one day soon, it’s actually much affordable for me traveling back to Europe were they welcome the tourist dollar. That being said, I’d like to congratulate anyone who had a direct effect at killing the tourist industry in Hawaii.

  2. It’s sad how lawmakers have insulted visitors and part-time island residents with their blatant disdain for anyone who is not either a millionaire or full time resident.

    I would feel lucky to have been born in Hawai’i, I love it that much.

    Unfortunately, my 74-year old husband still has to earn a living, and we cannot be full time on island as yet. Luckily, the residents have embraced us, so we continue coming and paying the mortgage on our land that we hope to build on one day.

    That said, if I hadn’t already have fallen in love with Hawai’i, then the lawmakers messaging would’ve kept me from ever visiting the island.

  3. The government forgot what made Hawaii attractive to mainland tourists. Hawaii is in the US, a beautiful place, its safe, and it was reasonably priced. Further the locals influenced the government into thinking US tourists are Bad!
    My Hawaii business deals with tourists every day, sure once in a while you get a bad apple, but 99.9% of our guests are great, yet we are now suffering because tourism has slowed down so much! I can tell you having just returned from Europe “bad” tourists are everywhere!
    Please, hotels, HI government and locals stop biting the hand that feeds you!

  4. Too late Hawaii. I started making my vacation plans the way you asked us to. Mexico and the Caribbean. They have always wanted us and besides, it’s cheaper.
    I don’t really trust Hawaii not to just “change their mind” again.

    1. Don’t blame hawaii, except for the stone age types who keep voting for the same folks
      and expecting different results.

  5. The audacity of this Govenor and it’s Tourism board begging mainland travelers to come back is so funny. Sorry to say this but Hawaii has priced out itself out of the toursim market for the average traveller. The whole island is run by corrupt Liberal lunatics that have no idea how to generate business. They tax tourists to death and then wonder why no one is returning. The chickens have come home to roost.

  6. Aloha, I’m someone who has lived in Hawaii and visited my entire 58 yrs when I wasn’t living there. This topic of asking tourists to come back. I can understand why mainlanders are confused. Hawaii has always been such a welcoming place but since covid and the Maui fire. Mainlanders read so much about the disrespecting tourist that tourist think twice about visiting. Hawaii can’t have it both ways. Hawaii economy survives because of tourists. I will never stop visiting because I understand the prespective of locals. Many tourist don’t even know to stay away from house and monk seals. I have a perfect solution. If your interested reach out to me.

  7. It’s too little too late. The damage has already been done and will take a lot of remediation. The racist antitourism sentiment has been seen and heard not just among folks on the mainland but from all over the world. Tourism has dropped dramatically. So if some locals want to return to the good old days of subsistence pounding pou, they will soon be getting their wish. Look for many more businesses to close up shop with more job losses.

    1. Tavares, sadly I think you are correct. Hawaii’s years of liberal one party rule has led to a political establishment class that only seems to want line their pockets with special interest cash, and cater to billionaire high tech moguls and glitzy Hollywood types. The locals have to take a back seat and just submit to their crazy rules and impractical program ideas that waste precious tax dollars

      1. And bezos has folks trying to kick boaters out of the ocean! Lol the Beaches are public. How bout boycott amazon?

  8. I vote too little, too late. We made our first two trips to Hawaii in 2022 and 2023, and had great times, albeit in STVRs as we prefer those, and hotel prices in Hawaii are absurd. In 2024 we are heading to Greek islands, which has been an eye-opener, as we booked two weeks in places with amazing sea-view balconies, at less than two nights of a hotel in Hawaii, or a single night at the place in Hanalei that BoH just reviewed. If STVRs go away and hotel prices remain as is, the one-land Hawaiian economy seems in a self-sustaining death spiral.

  9. We are planning on spending our 50th wedding anniversary in Hawaii along with our family. However, with the tourism bureau preferring other countries visitors instead of the mainland visitors has me rethinking our plans, but I love Hawaii.

      1. Congratulations! I am sure you will have a fabulous time. Hope to read your experience…all the best and good health!

  10. Our biggest expense is not housing (we are a deeded time-share owner). Its rental car. It costs us more to rent a car for 2 weeks, our normal stay, than for 2 people to fly round trip to HI. Too many fees.

    1. Try Enterprise if you’re going to Oahu. Demand must have Really dropped because I just rebooked a mid sized car for only $177 a week yesterday for arrival next week vs $241 that I reserved months ago. Prices were in the $340’s just a couple days ago. I’m going to keep checking right up till departure too.

      Best Regards

      1. Hi Jay.

        Thanks. Yes that’s always good advice; checking to the end tends to save money most of the time.


  11. BOH, how can I go directly to a link from a comment someone posted? The last email alert I received was from Rich and I wanted to tell him he is not alone …the positive posts seem to get lost here and I hope the publishers don’t have their own political agenda…

    1. Hi Eva.

      There is a reply button below each comment. Is that what you are referring to or something else?


      1. No, what I mean is that I cannot find the comment that Rich posted. For example, I just received your email, clicked on the link and saw it and I hit the reply botton. However when I received the email alerting me of a new comment that Rich posted, it’s not there. I scrolled through all the negative comments by others and could respond to all of those, but it would be a waste of time. I just wanted to respnd to Rich, but his post is no where to be found, even though I received an email about it

        1. Eva, I don’t know if this is your problem, but when I get the emails from BOH with new comments, it takes a long time, sometimes hours, before I can actually see them on the BOH website. The comments eventually do show up, but it’s frustrating to want to respond immediately but have to wait until the comment and Reply button on the website are available.

    2. Eva,

      When BOH sends you a compilation of reader comments. One is called Comment and the other Permalink. I have found Permalink to be the way to go.

        1. I wish it did indeed help. I’ve tried both Comment and Permalink, and neither of them work for me until several hours after I get comment emails from BOH. Clicking on either Comment or Permalink just sends me to the top of the BOH site. Hours later, the comment correctly becomes accessible from both links.

          In fact, I am only just now able to respond to this comment.

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