Destinations

Hawaii Looks to Asia For Growth As U.S. Mainland Tourism Lags

Aug 24, 2013 8:30 am

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U.S. consumers, as well as Canadians and Europeans, have become more price sensitive, and Hawaii has fallen out of favor as a result. But the islands are looking to Asia as its next growth market.

— Rafat Ali

Free Report: The State of Student Travel

Michael Goulding  / Orange County Register/MCT

A quiet walk under the backdrop of Diamond Head, at Duke Kahanamoku Beach in Hawaii. Michael Goulding / Orange County Register/MCT


The promising Asia-Pacific region next year is expected to help Hawaii shore up its visitor industry, which is anticipating lackluster gains from its largest tourist markets — the U.S. West and the U.S. East.

The Hawai’i Tourism Authority, which sets state tourism policy and manages the state visitor marketing budget, has set a 2014 goal to bring 8.7 million visitors, who will spend $16.1 billion in Hawaii. To get there, tourism officials are relying on bullish gains in small markets like China, South Korea, Taiwan and Latin America, and aggressive goals in larger international markets like Oceania and Japan.

These gains will have to make up for weak domestic and European momentum and possible shortfalls from Canada, a mature market that tourism experts say somewhat mimics the price sensitivity behaviors of U.S. consumers.

“There is massive expansion ahead for emerging markets,” John Koldowski, special adviser to the CEO of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, said Friday as the annual Hawai’i Tourism Conference wrapped up at the Hawai’i Convention Center. “The emerging middle class will drive both travel and air cargo flows.”

Taiwan is one of Hawaii’s smallest major markets, but the nation is expected to be the state’s growth leader in 2014. HTA’s new 2014 spending goal for Taiwan is $77.6 million, which represents a 103 percent spending rise from 2013 spending. The board’s goal for arrivals is 35,000, which represents a 100 percent increase from the number of people expected in 2013.

Similarly, HTA has high expectations for growth from China. The board expects China to reach $441.7 million in visitor spending, which is up 23.3 percent from its anticipated 2013 results. Likewise, the visitor arrivals goal has increased to 182,078, a 25.6 percent rise from 2013 expectations.

David Uchiyama, HTA vice president of brand management, said the aggressive new goals are partially due to increased air service in Shanghai and the addition of direct service from Beijing as well as new representation from Travel Link Marketing, which is expected to achieve greater market penetration.

So promising is the long-term outlook for China that Jason Pacheco, founder of BRIC Marketing Group, urged conference attendees to get ready for the China wave, which should generate more than 100 million outbound travelers by 2020.

“It’s not just enough to build it and they will come, which has been the mentality of our industry,” Pacheco said. “There is a risk of not dealing with China and that means that you will be left behind.”

While many U.S. destinations are vying for a share of China travelers, Pacheco said Hawaii is poised to win the market.

“I make these same speeches on the East Coast and in California and you are already one stop ahead of everyone else because you have what the Chinese desire, which is the true warmth and feeling of your islands,” he said. “I would imagine ‘aloha’ is going to be one of those feel-good words that the Chinese will adopt for years to come.”

Likewise, South Korea is a very promising market for Hawaii, said David Ruch, United Airlines’ country manager for Korea.

“When you look at the gateways and cities visited, clearly Hawaii has been the primary benefactor fo the visa waiver,” Ruch said. “Hawaii is doing very well, better than any other state but California in terms of share.”

To that end, HTA has targeted Korean spending to rise to $383.80, which is a 10.9 percent increase from anticipated 2013 spending. Arrivals for 2014 are expected to increase to 208,921, an 8.9 percent rise from 2013 anticipated arrivals.

Uchiyama said higher goals were set in part because meetings, conventions and incentives are anticipated to rise and more traffic is expected from secondary cities like Busan, Jeonju, Daejeon and Daegu.

Japan, the state’s largest international market, also is expected to perform well in 2014. However, while the market is up this year over 2012, it likely won’t reach its 2013 targets.

“Daily spending (is) down because of the yen devaluation and Abenomics,” said Eric Takahata, Hawai’i Tourism Japan managing director. “We need to keep our eye on the ball and add more first-timers, (meetings, conventions and incentives) travelers, and achieve greater neighbor island distribution.”

HTA boosted Japan’s spending goal to $3.08 billion, an 8.6 percent increase from 2013 anticipated spending. Likewise, the arrivals goal has racheted up to 1.705 million, a 6.5 percent increase from the market’s 2013 anticipated visitor count.

When it came to Oceania, which includes Australia and New Zealand, HTA set a spending goal of $917 million, which represents a nearly 9.6 percent rise from the expected 2013 results. Likewise, the 2014 arrivals goal of 384,670 is about 8.5 percent higher than the 2013 expectation.

In comparison, significantly less growth is expected for the domestic market, Canada, Europe and Latin America. HTA’s goal for the U.S. West market is 3.3 million arrivals, which is the same as the number of arrivals anticipated for this year. The 2014 spending goal has been bumped up to $5.05 billion, a 2.5 percent rise over anticipated spending for this year.

The U.S. East is expected in 2014 to bring in 1.768 million arrivals, a 0.8 percent increase over 2013’s figures. Spending is targeted to rise 3.1 percent to $3.86 billion over 2013’s anticipated $3.8 billion. HTA’s goal for Canada in 2014 is for spending to stay flat at $1.04 billion and for arrivals to fall 0.5 percent to 506,183.

The board also set a goal from Europe to bring in 139,937 visitors, or nearly 1.5 percent more than anticipated in 2013. HTA also approved a 2014 spending target of $298.1 million, which is about a 2.5 percent rise from this year’s European expectation.

HTA’s goal for 2014 arrivals from Latin America is 29,853, which represents a 7 percent increase over 2013 results. The goal for 2014 spending from Latin America is $90.9 million, which is an 8.1 percent rise over 2013 expectations.

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