HONOLULU -- Hawaii travel sellers and suppliers should concentrate
on marketing to singles and couples and not waste their time on
families, according to research presented to members of the Hawaii
Visitors and Convention Bureau.
"Clearly, having children in the household doesn't help in the
potential visit to Hawaii," said Bill Siegel, president of
Longwoods International in Toronto.
Siegel made the comments to HVCB members while presenting
findings from a telephone survey of 2,798 households across the
The survey placed particular emphasis on households in Los
Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento, Calif.; Portland,
Ore.; Seattle; Denver; New York; Boston; Chicago; Dallas, and
In graphs entitled "Ever Visited Hawaii" and "Visited Hawaii in
Past Two Years," younger singles and couples, older singles and
couples and retirees scored much higher than younger and older
In the group of people surveyed who had visited Hawaii in the
last two years, Siegel said "younger singles and couples on the
West Coast are the important market; younger families [nationwide]
dropped off the face of the earth."
Families scored the lowest in graphs that gauged whether the
respondents had traveled more than 2,000 miles from home in the
past five years and whether they had traveled by air and were away
more than five days in the past five years.
"Clearly there are some problems in terms of having kids," he
Overall, Siegel said the biggest barriers to traveling to Hawaii
are the distance, the time it takes to get here, cost and the
presence of children in the home.
Families on the West Coast are more likely to take a trip to
Hawaii than those in other parts of the country because the
distance and cost are less.
"The real potential for families is on the West Coast," Siegel
said. "But don't waste your dollars on younger families outside the
West Coast. Simply traveling on long-haul trips is something
families do a lot less of."
Hoteliers and tour operators, which spent plenty of time and
money marketing kids' programs this summer, said they have good
reason to continue marketing to families, despite Siegel's
David Carey, president of Outrigger Hotels and Resorts, said he
looked over the survey results and found that he agreed that some
families just can't afford a Hawaii vacation, but added "we're
certainly not going to walk away from the family market."
"Our Ohana brand and our condominiums are both family-
friendly," said Carey.
Like many other hotels in Hawaii, Outrigger is offering an
activity-based kids' program through August. Outrigger's program is
called Cowabunga Kids Club and is offered at the Outrigger Reef on
the Beach in Waikiki (with guests at other Waikiki Outriggers
invited to participate), the Outrigger Waikoloa Beach on the Big
Island and the Kiahuna Plantation on Kauai.
Carey said there is a family market that can afford a Hawaii
vacation, and the parents are found in the baby- boomer
Aside from the high price of a Hawaiian vacation for four or
five people, Carey said Hawaii suffers from a lack of activities
that families can enjoy together.
For those selling travel to families "there is opportunity, but
the perception is that there is not enough stuff to do here," said
Carey. "We are activity- short."
George Thompson, director of sales and marketing for Runaway
Tours in San Francisco, said his company recently re-launched its
Kids Need Vacations Too! program in response to travel agent
But he also said Siegel "hits the nail on the head about
marketing to families on the West Coast."
"We have seen the majority of our family business come from the
West Coast and that's where we market to families," said
Runaway's kids' program offers a six-day vacation with hotel and
Jeep Cherokee rental and is priced per family.
Runaway's hotel partners in Hawaii -- Hilton, Aston, Sheraton
and even the upscale Ritz- Carlton -- "have been fantastic in
working with us on our family packages, giving free stays to
children under 18," said Thompson.
Aston Hotels & Resorts, which recently started a kids'
program called Kids Connection at 15 of its Oahu condominium
resorts and hotels that will run through Aug. 31, sees families as
a staple source of customers.
"We have a little advantage over the other hotel companies in
the family area because most of our properties are condominiums,"
said Loren Shim, assistant vice president of sales administration
Shim said 25 of 37 of the Aston properties in Hawaii are
"So much of our business is families because they come in and
stay at our condos, and they can put three, four, five people in
one condo for the same price," said Shim. "At our condos you are
not subject to a per person rate. And at all of our properties,
kids under 17 stay free, so that's why we think the family market
works for us."
According to Siegel, families with older kids are more likely to
take a vacation to Hawaii than those who are younger and just
starting out in family life.
"If you are targeting families, you will have more luck with
school-age kids rather than families with toddlers," said
"Here's the real world scenario: A couple with kids says, 'Why
don't we go to Hawaii?', so the wife calls the travel agent and
says, 'We're going to Hawaii.'
"Then the cost starts to rise, and so the travel agent says, 'We
got this great package to Mexico,' so you end up with a lot of
last-minute de-selling to Hawaii.
"People end up going to Mexico because it's cheaper, even though
they are concerned about getting hassled and getting sick. But the
truth is, there are a lot of cheap packages to Mexico."
According to his survey, Siegel said when it comes to booking a
trip to Hawaii, older singles and couples are the most likely to
use a travel agent. Older singles and couples are defined as
singles age 35 to 65 or couples over 45 with no children at
The next most likely group to use an agent to book a trip to
Hawaii is retirees, followed by younger singles, with couples with
families coming in last.