Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), which manages global destination-marketing contracts for the Aloha State, has announced new deals for the mainland U.S., Japan, Canada and global meetings, conventions and incentives  (MCI) group business to the Islands.

Earlier this week, the HTA said it will stick with the Hawaii Visitors and Conventions Bureau (HVCB) for marketing efforts on the U.S. mainland and LLC in Japan, renewing both Honolulu-based organizations to two-year contracts that feature an option for a third year. 

The HTA is changing course, however, for Canada, offering a one-year deal to VoX International Inc., a marketing firm based in Toronto. Meanwhile, Business Events Hawaii Inc., a Honolulu firm that will also receive a one-year deal, will handle the Aloha State’s global MCI marketing.

The VoX selection was something of a surprise as the HVCB has been Hawaii’s North American marketer for many years, so many, in fact, that’s it’s tough to remember when the HVCB wasn’t marketing to both the mainland U.S. and Canada.

“VoX International impressed us with the innovation of their proposed outreach to travel consumers, their in-market expertise and the fact that their network of staff support is based in major markets nationwide,” Randy Baldemor, the HTA’s chief operating officer, told Travel Weekly in an email. “They offered solutions to expand and deepen awareness about Hawaii’s appeal that we are confident will re-energize interest from audiences throughout Canada.” 

The Hawaiian Islands enjoyed record-breaking total visitor arrivals and tourism spending in 2015, but Canadian visitors to the state dropped 1.4% last year to just over 517,000 travelers, making the source market Hawaii’s third largest behind the U.S. mainland, which provided more than 5.2 million visitors last year, and Japan’s nearly 1.5 million arrivals.  

Through the first quarter of this year, however, the Canadian numbers are even worse, with arrivals sinking 12.2% while total visitor expenditures by Canadian travelers plunged more than 19%, according to the latest HTA estimates.

A struggling Canadian economy and weakened Canadian dollar have made it tough to attract the country’s travelers, according to a May Marketing Insights Update produced by the HVCB, which noted that “the Canadian dollar averaged just 73 cents on the U.S. dollar in the first quarter of 2016, well below the 82 cents seen in the same quarter of the prior year.”

But Canada’s economic challenges certainly don’t seem to have hampered the enthusiasm of Susan Webb, the president of VoX International, which also has marketing contracts with organizations such as Tourism Australia, the German National Tourism Office, the Kenya Tourism Board, the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism and Texas Tourism.

“We proposed to HTA an integrated marketing strategy combining advertising, trade activities and public relations, and are so appreciative to have earned their trust with our plan to inspire and educate Canadians about all that the Hawaiian Islands have to offer,” she said in an email.

“We are big fans of Hawaii and know the islands well,” she added. “Our team has promoted and sold the destination, and personally vacationed there regularly over the years. It’s such an amazing, unique destination.”

The HTA spent about $60 million last year on brand management efforts through its global marketing contractors to attract travelers to the Hawaiian Islands, according to figures in the organization’s 2015 annual report


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