The Big Island Visitors Bureau announced a name change earlier this week and officially became the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB), aligning the organization with the island's proper name of Hawaii and away from the nickname of the Big Island.
Ross Birch, the IHVB's executive director, said discussions about renaming the organization started about six years ago after results of research conducted on the U.S. mainland revealed there was confusion among consumers about which island the Big Island truly was.
"With the in-market research we did for the never-beens, those who don't know us as a destination, we discovered that whenever we said Big Island or referred to the Big Island, they immediately thought of Oahu," he explained. "They were making the assumption that big means you must be in Honolulu, because it's the biggest area or it has the most business or it's the busiest place."
Birch added that he's met people firsthand at consumer shows over the years who'd never been to Hawaii and also made similar assumptions when he asked them if they'd ever considered a vacation to the Big Island.
"They'd say, 'No. It's way too busy. It's just another city with coconut trees, and we'd rather go to some place that's a little bit more low-key,'" Birch remembered.
Folks familiar with the Island of Hawaii know it's not generally a busy place and truly offers some 'low-key' vacation options. And Birch told me he found never been consumers unfamiliar with the Aloha State much more receptive when he asked if they'd ever considered a trip to the Island of Hawaii, telling him often in response that they had no idea there was an island named Hawaii.
Clearly, there is some room for confusion, but Birch said his organization has been referring to the destination as the Island of Hawaii, or Hawaii Island, in all of its marketing and public relations efforts for some time. The last step was to finally change the organization's name, a process he compared to "stripping off a Band-Aid."
"Our partners are hopping on board with that as well," he said. "The hoteliers, our activities, everyone that is our partner on the island promoting tourism through their own entity has now changed how they refer to the island."
Noting that Hawaii Island trails behind both Oahu and Maui in attracting first time travelers, Birch is hopeful sticking to the island's proper name may help attract more 'never beens,' and he encouraged travel agents to employ the official moniker for the destination.
"I think from a travel agent standpoint it will help them open the conversation with a never been," Birch said. "It's almost like we're a new destination to the never-been crowd, [and] we hope to at least open their eyes, and have them discover there are these wonderful things to do on our island."