Hawaii Travel Re-Boot Underway: Will This Work?

We’re all trying to figure out what the end game will be in Hawaii travel, and we include our loyal visitors, the government, and Hawaii travel industry stakeholders.

What do you, our important visitors, think should happen to create sustainable Hawaii travel?

Many people in Hawaii government as well as those in the Hawaii travel sindustry read Beat of Hawaii. What you have to say in comments is really important. So feel free to join the discussion below, and make a difference.

Covid simultaneously created a crisis and this unique opportunity. 

Hawaii is looking at what kinds of changes are needed that would enhance the quality of the visitor experience both for travelers and for residents. Yet questions remain in all of our minds about how and what Hawaii travel will morph into going forward.

We know you still love to travel as much as we do and to connect with us here in Hawaii. For many of you, Hawaii has been a lifetime passion. But vacation mindsets are shifting, and we want to explore what’s going on.

The shutdown of Hawaii tourism as a result of Covid has resulted in the government, travel industry, and community leaders taking stock of priorities and examining new possibilities. A seemingly unthinkable travel pause created this opportunity as a result of crisis..

A strategic once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Tourism represents the largest part of Hawaii’s economy. Before Covid, it is estimated the industry was responsible for perhaps 1/4 million direct jobs, and far more in related areas. With close to $20 billion in visitor spending then, it was without equal.

At the same time, those of us living here welcomed beaches without crowds and no traffic during Covid time. It is only the second time that we can ever remember that happening, with the first time being during the economic slowdown that happened years earlier.

So while Hawaii tourism numbers grew over the last decade, both visitor and resident satisfaction began to suffer. Visitor numbers themselves are just part of the problem. So too is protecting Hawaii’s delicate environment and natural resources. Examples include Hana on Maui, Oahu’s Hanauma Bay, and Kauai’s north shore, among others.

New flights, extreme competition with the introduction of Southwest Hawaii flights, and the lowest-ever airfares all contribute to the problem of over-tourism.

The bottom line is that Hawaii travel must be a healthy environment capable of satisfying visitors and residents alike.

Hawaii tourism before Covid. Was everything really okay?

Tourism appeared in many ways the end-all, be-all in Hawaii, or so it seemed. But that was on the surface, and underneath that, change had been brewing for many years. Dissatisfaction was growing both for residents and visitors. Now, as we fast approach the second anniversary of Covid, Hawaii as well as other destinations that have been inundated with tourism are looking at how to reset for the long term.

Will Hawaii ultimately distance itself from extreme tourism reliance?

Residents are of many voices when it comes to tourism and how that should evolve. It ranges from those who believe that travel is a pariah and should virtually end. Others say that with no other viable choices on the horizon, Hawaii travel will remain the lifeblood of the state for the foreseeable future. Without travel, the reality is that there are few jobs in Hawaii, beyond government and healthcare. More reasoned perhaps are those who are looking to find a balance between tourism, albeit at perhaps a somewhat reduced pace, with concurrent development of alternatives.

Travel regeneration planning is being spearheaded by Hawaii Tourism Authority.

HTA’s lofty plans are to “rebuild, redefine and reset tourism’s direction over a three-year period.” The often troubled HTA is looking at each island and has developed “Destination Management Action Plans (DMAPs) for each one. HTA says “This work will help in recovery efforts and rebuild tourism (and)…includes attracting and educating responsible visitors; advocating for solutions to overcrowded attractions, overtaxed infrastructure, and other tourism-related problems; and working…to improve natural and cultural assets valued by both Hawai‘i residents and visitors.”

Will Hawaii retain its allure to visitors? BOH: Hawaii’s attraction and mystery are strong and unchanging. We see that in many of your comments and we feel it deeply too. As fellow travelers, we’ve visited tropical islands and other places around the world, and yet there is only one quintessential Hawaii.  It isn’t necessarily measurable, but it is in the very essence of the air we breathe here, the aloha. 

How will Hawaii differentiate itself from other destinations while connecting emotionally in terms of our people, culture, food?

In food, for example, from poke to shave ice, Hawaii is authentic if nothing else. Sitting between Asia and North America physically and culturally, and in many other ways, in that way alone it is unique. Add to that melting pot of residents, and the culture of the islands including Hawaiian music and dance, you have a vacation that feels very different from any other. While international travel is still uncertain, Hawaii is a good substitute for those who want to get away from the mainland.

Will Hawaii visitors continue to value the same things in Hawaii as they did before?

That seems to be in flux, but it remains too early to know. How will the impact that Covid has had on the world change what we choose to do, where we stay, and every other aspect of Hawaii vacations?

We don’t know whether our Honolulu city experience will be at the top of your travel bucket list, or if you’ll yearn instead for the more remote places here including the Big Island and Kauai? Will nature and deeper personal experiences become more the norm?

And the question remains as to whether Hawaii will do what is needed to offer the highest standards of travel excellence.

What do you, our important visitor stakeholders think should happen to create sustainable Hawaii travel.

Many people in Hawaii government as well as industry stakeholders read Beat of Hawaii. What you have to say is really important. So feel free to join the discussion below, and make a difference.

133 thoughts on “Hawaii Travel Re-Boot Underway: Will This Work?”

  1. My first trip back to Hawaii in 5 yes. I love the mahalo spirit. Please continue and enhance efforts to educate visitors on how we can support the economy here And protect the environment. I’m sad to see it’s hard or next to impossible as a tourist to recycle…should I lobby Costco to pack in less plastic, esp. here on the islands?!

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