The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau
is looking to grow business outside of Hawaii's key West Coast
gateways, and there's a lot of competition, most notably from
Cancun, the Riviera
Maya and Cabo San Lucas continue to grow, taking aim at the upscale
travelers who are Hawaii's preferred visitors, but doing it for
less money and for less time in the air.
The thing that may
work to Hawaii's advantage is the new passport requirement; Mexico
and much of the Caribbean are off limits for travelers who don't
have one. For a family of four, passport costs add close to $500 to
the total cost of a trip.
"We've found that
we have a potential market of 21.5 million people who fit our
demographic profile who have never been to Hawaii," said John
Monahan, president and CEO of the HVCB. "We think this offers us a
lot of growth potential. And we're emphasizing Hawaii's convenience
as a domestic destination, which we consider a real plus for
Hawaii, especially for those who have never been here."
Adding more feeder
cities with nonstop service to Hawaii is high on Monahan's wish
list, although he understands the bottom-line complications that
come with sky-high jet fuel costs.
What he would like
most are more nonstops from markets in the Midwest, East and
Southeast, not unlike the growth of once-secondary Western feeder
markets such as Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Orange County, Calif.;
Oakland, Calif.; and Anchorage. All of these departure points now
offer nonstop flights to Oahu and the Neighbor Islands.
"Time is money, so
the longer and more complicated the routing, the harder it is to
develop a market," said Jay Talwar, the HVCB's senior vice
president of marketing. "Hawaii is still faring well as far as lift
is concerned, but the nonstops make a big difference where more
distant markets are concerned."
Airlift to Hawaii
is up 44% since 2001, according to the HVCB. The increase helped
push Hawaii past the 7.5 million visitor count in 2005, setting a
record that was nearly matched in 2006. But 85% of that growth has
been from the West Coast, which represents about 60% of Hawaii's
The HVCB is also
looking to Canada and Europe because of the strength of the
Canadian dollar and the euro against the U.S. dollar. The billions
of dollars spent upgrading hotels and other travel infrastructure
provides the HVCB with a powerful marketing message.
"In today's world,
it's all about keeping it new," said Monahan.
contact reporter Allan Seiden, send e-mail to [email protected].