Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Tourism

Hawaii Cancels U.S. Tourism Marketing Contract with Native Community Group

2 months ago

The Hawaiian government this week rescinded the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s U.S. tourism contract with the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, a community non-profit, providing a potential setback for the authority’s sustainable tourism efforts. The reason for the government’s rescission was that the contract needed to be separated into two, one for marketing and the other for visitor management and community relations.

The move is the latest roadblock to the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s attempts toward bringing a more sustainable approach to Hawaii, where communities have been frustrated by and more vocal about tourism’s negative impacts on their quality of life and ecosystem. The situation was an industry example of the 2022 Skift megatrend that communities are asserting themselves in travel.

Former Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT) Director Mike McCartney made the decision minutes before his term ended at noon on Monday. The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) sits under the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism.

In a letter, McCartney said there needs to be one contract for marketing and another for destination brand management, communication, education, and community-based economic development. “A single contract would not only put us at a competitive disadvantage in the market but also in dealing with the community,” the former director wrote.

Diamond Head Crater in O‘ahu, United States. Photo by Chase O.
https://unsplash.com/photos/7yKgU0xemJw

In June, the Hawaii Tourism Authority awarded Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) the $34 million dollar contract to market the islands to the U.S. until December 2024. It was a historic shift because HTA didn’t go with its historic partner,  Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB), which has marketed Hawaii for over a century with strong support from the traditional tourism industry. 

The contract award also represented a significant step toward HTA implementing a “locals-first” approach. The authority wants to attract a more high-spending but mindful visitor, one that will embrace Hawaii’s cultural heritage and be respectful of sacred sites and the natural environment. 

Since the June contract award, HTA has repeatedly extended its current contract with the HVCB due to protests by the bureau. Its most recent extension was up to March 31, 2023.

With the June contracted canceled, HVCB could very well end up oversee marketing to the U.S. for the next few years. In a statement, CNHA CEO Kūhiō Lewis called McCartney’s recession “unlawful” and said his organization will protest it.

HTA President and CEO John De Fries said the organization is willing to work on a settlement with all the parties involved or start a new procurement process, according to Hawaii News Now.

Either way, the Hawaii Tourism Authority will have to get to work, starting with an upcoming emergency meeting. “My staff and I look forward to discussing this rescission and cancellation at our board meeting on Wednesday and we will work with our board, new DBEDT Director Chris Sadayasu, the State Procurement Office, and Governor Josh Green to explore viable options and align our direction going forward,” said De Fries.

Tour Operators

G Adventures Invests in Restorative Tourism Platform Reforest

2 months ago

Adventure travel specialist G Adventures has made a “significant financial investment” in Reforest, a digital platform that connects travelers with local communities that are restoring their ecosystems using reforestation.

Reforest, which is based in Brisbane, Australia, said it enables travelers to give back by having their own trees planted in places where community tourism relies heavily on the preservation of the local environment.

The platform then provides travelers with tangible, visible, scientific data measuring the positive impact of the trees planted on their behalf — including drone-based footage and satellite imagery.

“I’ve never been a fan of carbon-offsetting,” said Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures, who recently spoke at Skift Global Forum in New York. “The idea that you can have a negative impact in one place and do something positive somewhere else, and that somehow balances the scale, is not science to me, and most of all it doesn’t change people’s behaviour.”

The stake G Adventures has taken not been disclosed but Daniel Walsh, Reforest’s co-founder, said the investment gave the company the means to improve its technology, and expand its offering by marketing the platform more widely within the global travel industry.

“Together we will also create a showcase example of restorative tourism at work as we build the G Adventures’ tree-planting programme together over the coming month,” he said in a statement.

Overtourism

Airbnb Data Says Flexible Search Tools Help Combat Overtourism

3 months ago

Airbnb said that the flexible search features it has rolled out since early 2021 have so far diverted bookings from destinations coping with overtourism and peak travel times, according to data it shared on Friday.

The short-term rental booking giant has increasingly offered search tools — see Skift’s earlier coverage: “Airbnb’s Next Big Change: Search” — in response to evidence that many people don’t have a destination or fixed dates in mind when they start researching trips.

Some of Airbnb’s new data points from its first whitepaper on “sustainable tourism” (embedded below).

  • “In 2019, the top 10 most visited cities on Airbnb in the European Union — including Paris, Barcelona, and Rome — accounted for 20 percent of all trips in Europe, whereas they account for just 14 percent of trips in 2022.”
  • “Guests using flexible search tools book less often in the 20 most popular destinations on Airbnb in Europe (-17.5 percent) and more often in less-visited communities ranked outside Airbnb’s top 400 destinations (+35.5 percent), when compared to guests booking via traditional search on Airbnb.”
  • “Guests booking via Airbnb’s flexible search tool—that provides an option to include a location without dates—are also more likely to book outside the top 10% most popular dates (-7.3 percent) and are more likely to book nights on weekdays (+5.7 percent).”
  • “Flexible search is also helping to redirect guests approximately 5 miles farther away from their initial intended location within cities, compared to traditional searchers on Airbnb … In Amsterdam, flexible bookers more often stay outside the city’s inner limits (+32.5 percent) compared to traditional bookers.”

As context: Airbnb’s search changes had two components.

People who don’t have a destination in mind can now be inspired by Airbnb’s new “Categories” category, which has been viewed more than 120 million times since August, according to company statements. This tool helps divert reservations away from Europe’s most saturated hotspots, according to Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb co-founder and chief strategy officer, when discussing the report at Web Summit in Lisbon on Thursday.

Travelers with flexible dates have been able to take advantage of Airbnb’s recently added feature that lets them say they’re really interested in traveling anywhere for a week and a week or a month anytime in the next year. The tool lets some travelers avoid peak time crushes in travel because of seasonality.

The report’s data points echos comments Co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky made at Skift Global Forum in September.

“What we want to do now is we want to be more in the inspiration business,” Chesky said. “You come to Airbnb and we can point demand to where we have supply. … We can highlight what makes us unique and get into the top of the purchasing funnel, which is basically giving people ideas of where to travel based on what’s available.”

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky (see full video)

Airbnb has been attempting to cope with the overtourism ever since 2018, when it created an “office of healthy tourism,” which at the time was the company’s term for proper tourism growth management. It began adding flexible search tools in early 2021, as Skift reported.

Skift coined the term overtourism to describe “a potential hazard to popular destinations worldwide, as the dynamic forces that power tourism often inflict unavoidable negative consequences if not managed well.”

See Airbnb’s sustainable tourism report, below:

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