In comment after comment, we’ve heard an outspoken and repeated voice. Here’s just one example today to set the tone. “Hawaii is extremely expensive. The native population is unfriendly and unwelcoming. Despite that we have been visiting the beautiful islands continually for 20 plus years. If these new tourist ideas and fees are implemented we will have made our last trip. Period.”
Yesterday, the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) booted out the Hawaii Visitor and Convention Bureau (HVCB) with its 120 plus year history in the state, and gave the marketing contract to an organization apparently without tourism experience but rooted in Native Hawaiian culture. The announcement was stunning. Will the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement be able to help the state navigate some of the most important issues it faces, given their singular focus on Native Hawaiian issues?
Hawaii has had a very high return rate of visitors. Why that’s about to change.
The reasons are multifold.
1. Visitors are increasingly able to travel more freely now that Covid is more in the rear view mirror. International travel has been largely off-limits but not so anymore. Most of those who opted for Hawaii regularly in the past will choose other destinations.
2. Perceptions linger that Hawaii is anti-visitor. We suggest the problems are caused by over-tourism; having too many people here at one time. That’s the sentiment from HTA and many residents. A huge change is in the air, but with the amount of money at stake, will reducing tourism cause economic hardship?
3. Higher than expected Hawaii vacation costs. While prices are up from the grocery store to airline tickets, and everywhere in between, Hawaii seems to have fared much worse in this area than some other destinations. Hawaii hotel prices are stratospheric, as are Hawaii car rentals. Then we add the highest visitor accommodation taxes in the country. It isn’t a good equation.
In the last study, Hawaii repeat visitors accounted for a staggering 68% of all arrivals.
In 2019, statewide, repeat visitors accounted for 68% of all arrivals, a number that had been rising.
Did you know that on average a return visitor to Hawaii has been back to the islands more than seven times.
The percentage of repeat visitors varies by place of origination:
U.S. West – 81%
Japan – 68%
Canada – 65%
U.S. East – 59%
When visitors return to Hawaii, they head to these islands:
Oahu – 55%
Maui – 30%
Big Island – 17%
Kauai – 14%
What is the value of returning Hawaii guests.
Guests that return provide airlines, accommodations, and almost everyone with a regular income stream. Thus, the loyalty of returning guests has made them a cherished asset, especially since they tend to also be the brand advocates for Hawaii. They become influencers with a broad reach across social media, and in comments on websites such as Beat of Hawaii. Many of Hawaii’s return visitors, for example, have been regulars on Beat of Hawaii for ten years or more. A familiar name, Colleen, who we’ve subsequently met in person, has contributed hundreds of comments about Hawaii since 2009.
Other reasons that returning guests are so important.
Return guests are said to spend more because they already value Hawaii and know it meets or exceeds their expectations. They’re also more likely to accept paid upgrades and ancillary options for the same reason. It’s easier to manage expectations with return visitors who simply know what’s reasonable.
Now the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement has the ball.
It’s in their court, to see what happens next. An organization focused on one aspect of Hawaii, which is very important and meaningful to all, now has to embrace everyone to tackle these important issues and help set the direction for the state. If you were in their shoes, what would you do?
We leave you with today’s comment from Una, a reader on Beat of Hawaii.
“If covid proved anything Hawaii needs tourists to support their state infrastructure which they have been getting from the (exorbitant) taxes on everything. Tourism seems to now be the only thing supporting their economy, so go ahead, “marginalize tourists” and good luck with that!
Note: The data used was from 2019, which is the last year before Covid. The next comparison years will be 2022 and 2023.