Hawaiian Airlines’ launch of three-times-weekly service between Honolulu and Auckland, New Zealand, last month was certainly big news for the Aloha State’s tourism industry, thanks to the 46,000 additional air seats and more than $50 million in visitor spending the flight is estimated to generate annually across the destination.
But it turns out the service may also help U.S. travel agents tap into new markets, including the growing number of young couples looking for both time at the beach and adventure on their honeymoons.
According to Ruth Grau, co-owner and president of Springboard Vacations in Redondo Beach, Calif., the idea of a traditional honeymoon spent relaxing in the sun solely at a beach destination isn’t as appealing to many active young couples as it used to be.
They still want some beach time, Grau said, but they want adventure, as well.
“So I can see people going to Hawaii for perhaps three or four days first,” she explained, adding that time to recuperate in the sun after all of the stress of the wedding is still a big selling point. “But then they’d head down to New Zealand for a week and do a number of the wonderful soft adventure-style activities available there.”
Grau already sells her clients trips of that nature, using Fiji or Tahiti as the honeymoon’s sun-and-sand component before sending couples on to New Zealand or Australia, but she said the lower cost of a trip to Hawaii may help her tap into a new market.
“And Hawaii is a destination U.S. travelers know and feel comfortable with,” she continued, adding that it’s only an eight-hour flight from Honolulu to Auckland. “So Hawaii is a nice transition stop [because] it’s that home soil but a little bit different, and may be somewhere they’ve always aspired to go to anyway.”
According to Peter Ingram, Hawaiian’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer, the airline expects a majority of the passengers on its flights between Auckland and Honolulu, and even Brisbane or Sydney to Honolulu, to be Oceania residents. But the carrier is already working with U.S. travel agents to push the idea of selling trips Down Under to American clients, which would likely include an Aloha State stopover, using Hawaiian flights.
“We really see an opportunity to connect Auckland and New Zealand to the mainland U.S.,” he told Travel Weekly. “But we also see an opportunity to connect the mainland U.S. to Auckland, [and] we timed the flight specifically to allow connections to be convenient from all 10 of our Western U.S. origin points.”
Currently the only U.S. carrier flying to Auckland, and Brisbane for that matter, Ingram said Hawaiian also plans to offer travelers lower fares to New Zealand than its only competitor on the Honolulu-Auckland route: Air New Zealand.
“We think the overall number of seats supplied in the market with only one competitor over the last several years has been lower in order to sustain higher pricing,” he explained. “So we think there is an opportunity to operate at lower fares than were in the market in 2012 and prior.”
For Corrine Goodman, the owner of Chicago-based Down Under Endeavors, the lower cost of Hawaiian’s new Honolulu-Auckland route may result in more honeymoon bookings, but she has another market in mind, as well.
“Where I really think it will work is families,” she said. “It’s a good low cost point, good service, and the layover in Hawaii on the way back will be perfect. It breaks it up nicely.”
Like Grau’s clientele, Goodman believes many of her customers will really like the idea of combining Hawaii with Oceania and that the pairing might even lead to a market shift.
“Active adventure vacations and then some beach time are our most popular requests by far,” Goodman said. “So this might pull a little bit away from the traditional Caribbean market and bring more people down to the South Pacific.”