Hawaii At The Crossroads With Tourism

Hawaii’s Tourism Storm: Gloomy March Data + Final Marketing Plans Released

In its latest strategic shift, the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) unveiled the final details of its latest campaign aimed at rejuvenating ailing tourism from the U.S. mainland. You can read it below. Let us know in the comments if you think it will work. This comes within 24 hours of Hawaii releasing its discouraging March 2024 tourism numbers.

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According to the official release, HTA is launching “The People. The Place. The Hawaiian Islands.”, a campaign celebrating Hawaii’s rich culture and vibrant community figures like musicians, chefs, and educators.

This initiative spotlights the unique offerings of Hawaii and is still designed largely to captivate eco-conscious and culturally interested tourists. The campaign is set to go live by mid-May, with a particular focus on promoting Maui while also promoting each island’s distinct brand.

Parallel efforts are being made in Japan with the “Beautiful Hawaii” and “Yappari Hawaii” campaigns, which have already started to reshape the visitor landscape by driving substantial bookings and generating millions of impressions. That in spite of a troubled Yen that just bounced back slightly, after hitting a 34-year low this week.

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Revisiting Hawaii’s mainland marketing focus.

Our earlier coverage, which revealed preliminary details of this pivot, stirred a considerable response. Commenters expressed mixed feelings—some skeptical, others hopeful—about HTA’s renewed focus on the U.S. mainland, a market which has been long neglected despite being the primary contributor to Hawaii’s tourism economy.

One of the most resonant themes among your feedback was a concern over whether this shift is timely or a knee-jerk measure responding to economic pressures rather than heartfelt desire.

One commenter highlighted, “Is re-focusing on the U.S. mainland a strategic retreat or a recalibration of priorities?” Other sentiment echoed a broader uncertainty about the sustainability of Hawaii’s tourism amidst rising global competition, among other factors.

HTA’s sudden assertiveness in engaging U.S. mainland tourists aligns with an urgent need to boost the lagging economic recovery. The campaign not only seeks to attract visitors but also to continue educating them on responsible travel practices that “mālama” (care for) the natural and cultural resources of Hawaii.

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Multiple challenges loom large for Hawaii travel.

The competitive nature of the U.S. tourism market, faced with economic strains together the ultra-high cost of travel to Hawaii, as you also pointed out, poses a formidable barrier to success. There also remains a persistent perception among visitors that they are not wholly welcomed, an issue HTA must squarely address in its messaging.

HTA navigates shark-infested tourism marketing waters.

The effectiveness of this and other campaigns will ultimately be judged by their ability to increase visitor numbers, and provide high quality Hawaii travel experiences that benefit both visitors and residents. The upcoming months will be critical in determining whether these efforts can indeed reverse this strong tide and reposition Hawaii as a top destination choice for U.S. mainland travelers.

March 2024 Hawaii visitor data shows continued decline.

March 2024’s visitor statistics released yesterday by the state’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) continues to show a persistent downturn in Hawaii tourism. Total visitor arrivals dipped by five percent to 855,537 compared with last year, and the decline in spending was similarly bleak, with a 4.2% drop.

A significant portion of this decline came precisely from the U.S. mainland market that HTA is seeking to re-invigorate. Arrivals from the U.S. West were down again, this time by 9.2%, with U.S. East down 9%.

Given that the mainland visitors have long been the most important contributors to Hawaii’s tourism industry, it suggesting a worrisome and ongoing trend of waning interest among these key audiences. Perhaps ironically, daily spending from visitors of these regions again showed an increase, as Hawaii vacations continue to rise in cost.

We invite you to continue this important conversation.

How do you perceive HTA’s latest campaign? Are they finally striking an appropriate balance between attracting visitors and preserving Hawaii’s unique cultural and natural heritage? Please share your thoughts below.


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84 thoughts on “Hawaii’s Tourism Storm: Gloomy March Data + Final Marketing Plans Released”

  1. Maui is a place where ineptitude reigns. They make their billions from tourism, spend like drunken sailors on everything But housing and then demonize the ones that brought in big bucks to the county.

    The big question is what will the destruction of the economy look like if they succeed in this decision.

  2. It is utterly ridiculous to try and attract tourists from the mainland while this governor is determined to kill vacation rentals.

  3. Has anyone explored having native Hawaiians offer more lodging in their own homes, or in homes they own? The visitors who want the “hotel/experience are one issue, but for any visitors who don’t need those amenities Hawaiian owned lodgings may be a way for visitors who want a more eco friendly expderience to stay more economically and help residents afford their own homes. It might take some government help, possibility incentives, but it would also cut down on non resident owned rentals.

    1. Our families visited Hawaii almost every summer from the west…unfortunately after booking air, hotels and cars (factoring the cost of food, parking, resort “administrative” fees, etc), we all have decided this will be the last year due to the ridiculous high prices for everything.

  4. I would love to visit Hawaii again; however between the incredible cost of hotels, air bnb, etc I’d rather travel to Europe for far less expensive. I also read a lot of hate of mainland people from the Hawaiians, why would I want to spend over 5k for a week? I must admit, I loved my experience visting over a decade ago, but from the cost, and feeling welcome, I rather travel elsewhere where I feel appreciated, and welcome.

    1. Christine,

      I made my first (unplanned) trip to Hawaii in 1965 (courtesy of the USMC). It was on a return from Japan and the ship spent half a day or so there. By the time of Vietnam, they flew home.

      Then, in the mid-1970s the family and I vacationed there almost every year and 3 times in 1999. Two more trips are scheduled this year.

      I had one relatively minor incident at Pali Lookout. One incident in at least 50 trips. Base your decision on the “loved experience” you had on your last trip. Go again. There’s plenty of time for Europe.

      I want to go to Europe again, but my wife insists on Hawaii.

  5. It shouldn’t surprise to anyone that the tourism industry is taking a huge blow during this recessionary process. Besides talking about the obvious reasons, nothing will change until the feds and central banks decide on the next course this world economy should go. Everything rides on their sole discretion. Everything else follows (all sectors of the world economy) needless to say. So, sad for the low and middle classes for they are the folks that get beat up throughout this entire fiasco. Good luck to those trying to survive through all this madness. It’ll be interesting to see who of the who’s make it through 2025……

  6. – The politicians must stop massive over spending on projects and programs wasting money at taxpayer/visitor expense. Our infrastructure, roads and airport runways are crumbling! Residents and visitors are over-taxes!

    The marketing should focus on what visitors want to do. Hawaiian Hospitality is gone when visitors feel they are not welcome! Come only if you do what we say how to vacation here. What are we doing to compete against other destinations? Why is marketing not focused on family and friends travel, children and aged travel activities, hobbies – The HTA and HVCB websites are same ole same ole.

    Green’s suggestion to charge visitors $25 x 9644519 visitor arrivals in 2023 is $241,,112,975 annually – corrupt tax to waste more

  7. I feel like it’s a slap in the face that they emphasize they only want the eco traveler from the mainland but from Japan is anyone.

  8. Regardless of their sales pitch; prices are out of control in Hawaii. I have been going for over 25 years but am finding other locations that are equally enjoyable, beautiful, and not outrageously expensive as Hawaii is. They need to address that issue! They also need to diversify their industry base and stop relying solely on tourism. They are selling out to wealthy land owners as well. My observation over the years is government that is short sighted and mismanages resources. These basic underlying issues need to be addressed or no marketing campaign will save these beautiful islands!

    1. I try not to get too caught up on the current tourism plan, since it changes regularly.

      The lack of leadership here on many issues – including tourism and the affiliated marketing that goes along with it – all but guarantees failure (or at best, mixed results).

      I would suggest that strong leadership, proper planning, and flawless execution would help, but without a well thought out executable plan we are just throwing mud to see if it sticks anywhere.

  9. Unfortunately people from the mainland are finding ba Hawai’i that looks more and more like the place they are trying to escape from. ” The mainland” Target, Costco, Walmart, crowded beaches and roads. Expensive lodging, and basics. There are no bargains anymore, and those perfect deserted beaches and trails that the advertisements still push are not really a reality anymore. This is not the paradise of years ago, so I think a downturn in tourism well help most residents catch up with housing and inflation. It’s all about supply and demand, and the demand is being captured by more desirable, less crowded and touristy destinations.

    1. You want a beautiful beach that is not overcrowded on Oahu?
      Try Iroquois Point Beach, or Iroquois Lagoon Beach 2 on weekdays. Because it is so far from Waikiki, and is not much of a surfing spot, it is always beautiful, and not crowded on weekdays.
      – But I agree with everything else you said.

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