Hawaii Tourism USA has been making a push to boost interest in the Islands from the East Coast, and those efforts are continuing with the launch of an initiative that invites New York residents to apply for a Work from Hawaii trip.
Six grand prize winners will be chosen for eight-day "work residencies" with airfare, accommodations and some activities all covered, including access to a specialized work space for five days.
Recognizing that many people feel too attached to work and other at-home commitments to take a long vacation, the agency is hoping to demonstrate how Hawaii visitors can get their Aloha State vacation and still answer emails and get their conference calls done while stirring up some inspiration in a new environment.
"People visit our islands for many reasons, but lately we have seen an explosion of guests looking for more than beaches and resorts," said Jay Talwar, chief marketing officer of Hawaii Tourism United States. "We're intrigued by those who connect with our culture and traditions in a way that invigorates their hobbies and career aspirations."
Through their own research, Hawaii Tourism found 67% of New Yorkers admitted to working during their last vacation and 71% reported feeling more productive when working outside of their traditional office setting.
"This 'always-on' mentality, which allows employees to take work wherever they go to foster better outcomes, problem-solving abilities, enhance creativity to ultimately come back to their office environments better equipped to do their jobs," Talwar said. "We focused on New York as the launch for the pilot, but we could do it for almost any city since everyone seems to experience the same work ethic as New York."
No two residencies will be the same. Each winner will stay on a different island -- Oahu, Kauai, Maui, Hawaii Island, Molokai or Lanai -- and there will be a dedicated theme for each particular residency.
The Maui residency, for example, is targeted toward people who work in the tech industry. The program includes an indoor/outdoor workspace set up with multiple monitors, and after-work activities such as a sunset hike in Haleakala National Park topped off with stargazing, and a lesson in wayfinding (navigating using only the natural environment, including stars and the flight patterns of birds).
"Each location features a unique work and living space, dedicated island ambassadors and hands-on itineraries to delve deep into Hawaii's cuisine, culture, and adventure; designed to inspire, refresh and have the residents come back better," Talwar said. "We wanted to expose people to the different aspects of the island, not just the natural beauty we are known for but the culture, too."
New York seemed like the ideal target for the first run of the Work from Hawaii idea, according to Talwar.
"Those who live in and around [New York] also see themselves as the most dedicated, resourceful and efficient workforce; 82% of New Yorkers feel they work harder than anywhere else in the country and justify a 'workcation' as the ideal scenario," he said. "Because of these findings, and since Work From Hawaii celebrates the career-minded traveler, who does everything in service of their hustle, we thought New York is a perfect market to start the pilot program."
The contest is only open to people between 24 and 36 years old. Hawaii Tourism research showed millennials, in general, tend to stay connected no matter where they are.
"This generation of American employees take their work with them wherever they go to foster better outcomes, enhance their problem-solving abilities, and enrich their creativity, ultimately to come back to their office environments and home cities feeling better equipped for their careers," Talwar said.
While the first iteration is open only to those who "live and work in the greater New York metropolitan area," Hawaii Tourism has plans to make the residencies available for all visitors to book and experience themselves starting later this fall. Additionally, the agency will consider offering the Work from Hawaii program to workers in other cities in the future.
The six vacations are slated to take place in September, and as of May 16, the contest had drawn 800 applicants for the six residencies, according to HTUSA. The application deadline is June 4.