HONOLULU -- Acupuncture, personal coaching, massage and homeopathic
healing are moving closer to Hawaii's tourism mainstream with the
formation of the Hawaii Wellness Tourism Association (HWTA).
For most of the state's nearly 7 million yearly visitors, a
typical vacation does not conjure up images of a massage in a
rain-forest treehouse or a weeklong stay at a yoga retreat. But
that could change soon.
The HWTA and a new guidebook to come, called the "Hawaii
Wellness Vacation Guidebook," are the tasks of local wellness
activist Laura Crites, who received funding from the Hawaii Tourism
Authority and the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB).
"The state has told me they will start marketing wellness travel
once the product is in place, and they recognize that wellness is
more than resorts and spas," said Crites, who runs Aloha Wellness
Travel, a Web directory of wellness providers at www.alohawellnesstravel.com.
"There are already all kinds of people practicing wellness here;
they just don't practice in the travel industry," she added.
Examples of wellness pro-viders are massage, art and breath
therapists; personal coaches; yoga instructors; acupuncturists; and
holistic health practitioners.
David Preece, vice president of North America for the HVCB, said
the bureau has been working with Crites for a couple of years now
to bring this industry into the open.
"Hawaii always has offered its visitors the promise of
relaxation, rejuvenation and self-discovery," said Preece. "In
recent years, there has been growth in the nontraditional wellness
sectors, but it has been difficult to promote because they are all
so small and scattered.
"As this collection of organizations of the health and wellness
movement becomes more organized, it makes it easier for us to
include it in promotional activities."
What Hawaii really needs, said Preece, is an entity like the
HWTA to offer visitors the information they need for referrals to
According to one massage therapist on Oahu, who declined to give
his name, independent practitioners have had a difficult time
marketing to tourists due to competition from hotels. In addition,
tourists are seen as one-time customers who are not worth the
hassle, and marketing is expensive.
It doesn't make sense for an independent massage therapist to
compete with hotels for tourists "because the tourist can just walk
down to the fourth floor to the spa and get a massage without
calling me," he said. "I don't know anyone who has marketed to the
tourism industry, for that exact reason."
Being included in the new wellness vacation guide could change
that, he noted.
Crites said the guide should be finished by the end of June,
with the first issues to be available at the ASTA congress in
Honolulu and the Society of American Travel Writers conference,
both in November.
The HVCB also has paid Crites to put together a wellness
knowledge bank, with photos and articles on the industry, she
Crites said she hopes to get 150 members to join the HWTA in the
next six months.
"The association will provide credibility for wellness
pro-viders and establish standards for people in the industry," she
said. "The people providing services now don't know how to market
to the visitor industry. They place ads in the paper and have
word-of-mouth advertising, but the association will really help
them market better.
"What I've tried to convince [HVCB chief executive] Tony
Vericella and others is that wellness is not just another niche
market like golf -- it's bigger than that," Crites added.