Categorized | Government, News, Travel

Hawaii Tourism Authority to spend $2.5M to support Hawaii Island tourism

MEDIA RELEASE

Honolulu, Hawaiʻi– Tourism on the island of Hawai‘i – the island’s leading industry – is receiving some much-needed support with an emphasis on new branding initiatives and increased marketing funding for its two largest markets, the U.S. mainland and Japan.

On March 28, the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority’s (HTA) Board of Directors approved reallocating $2.5 million in funding to support new marketing efforts to help the island of Hawai‘i recover from the falloff in tourism stemming from Kīlauea’s change in volcanic activity that began 11 months ago. 

Representative Richard H. K. Onishi talks about the visitor industry.
Representative Richard H. K. Onishi talks about the visitor industry.

Representative Richard H. K. Onishi, chair of the House Committee on Tourism & International Affairs and whose district covers Hilo, Kea‘au, Kurtistown, and Volcano, said this added emphasis to help businesses, communities, and residents on the island of Hawai‘i is appreciated.

“The Legislature last week approved an additional $60 million in emergency relief funding to repair damaged infrastructure,” said Onishi. “But money for infrastructure alone will not fix the damaged economy. That is why I was gratified to learn that the HTA is stepping up to the plate to provide funds to help revive Hawai‘i Island’s economy.”

Chris Tatum, HTA president and CEO, said the campaign is a collaborative effort to enhance how the island of Hawai‘i is perceived by travelers now that Kīlauea volcano is idle, while also supporting businesses and jobs affected by the drop in business over the past year. 

“We are very thankful to Chair Onishi and the state lawmakers for supporting the overall direction HTA is taking to do what is best for the community’s future on the island of Hawai‘i,” said Tatum. “This new branding campaign is needed to help enhance how travelers see the island of Hawai‘i as a destination and to revitalize tourism for the good of businesses and residents who rely on its sustainability.”

Funding to Support Branding in U.S. Mainland and Japan

The $2.5 million reallocated by HTA will be utilized by Hawai‘i Tourism United States ($1.5 million) and Hawai‘i Tourism Japan ($1 million) to implement a series of new branding, marketing and publicity programs. This funding complements the ongoing marketing and promotional programs being implemented by HTA’s Global Marketing Team in accordance with the guidance provided by the Island of Hawai‘i Visitors Bureau.

The new branding programs in the U.S. mainland and Japan will employ a variety of communication tactics to reach travelers in prime regional areas via marketing, promotions, sales blitzes to travel trade professionals, and public relations.

Among the planned programs is a high-profile bus tour that will carry island of Hawai‘i representatives and Hawaiian cultural practitioners, making stops in key cities on the West Coast to promote travel opportunities to the destination and showcase the vast number of attractions and activities visitors can enjoy island-wide.

Kīlauea Lava Flows Continued for Five Months

Kīlauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, erupted on May 3, 2018, in the lower Puna area on the island’s east side. Kīlauea continuously poured out lava over the next five months covering approximately 13.7 square miles of land and destroying more than 700 homes.

Although the affected area in lower Puna comprised less than one percent of the island of Hawai‘i, which measures 4,028 square miles and is larger than all of the other Hawaiian Islands combined, businesses island-wide suffered significant losses in revenue, as many visitors began choosing to avoid the island due to concerns about the lava flows and air quality.

On August 6, 2018, the lava flow from Kīlauea volcano ceased with the air quality becoming clean and clear immediately thereafter. On March 26, 2019, the U.S. Geological Survey changed Kīlauea volcano’s alert level from “advisory” status to “normal,” officially ending the eruption.

Impact of Kīlauea Eruption on Island of Hawai‘i Tourism

The impact that Kīlauea volcano’s eruption has had on tourism for the island of Hawai‘i over the past year is reflected in its visitor statistics.

As published through April 2018, island of Hawai‘i tourism was on a record-setting pace through the first four months of the year with the growth in visitor spending (+12.7 percent to $967 million) and visitor arrivals (+12.5 percent to 648,738 arrivals) significantly ahead of the previous high totals in 2017.

In the eight months that followed in 2018, visitor spending and arrivals steadily declined on the island of Hawai‘i with the year-end figures showing that visitor spending had flattened (+0.2 percent to $2.40 billion) and visitor arrivals declined (-2.5 percent to 1,718,181 arrivals) compared to 2017.

Through February 2019, the island of Hawai‘i has reported substantial decreases in both visitor spending (-10.3 percent to $445.8 million) and visitor arrivals (-10.7 percent to 285,628 arrivals) compared to the same two-month period in 2018.

Tatum commented, “With this new marketing campaign, our goals are to help reverse this continuing decline and emphasize to travelers the positive message about the abundance and diversity of attractions, activities, and sites to see and enjoy on the beautiful island of Hawai‘i.”

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