The Hawai’ian Islands are “back” – but in a different way. In a one-on-one interview with Open Jaw on Wednesday 19OCT during a trade and media event in Toronto, executives from Kaua’i, Oahu, Maui and the Island of Hawai’i shared how they are focusing on a respectful, environmentally-aware tourist.
The event was part of a major travel industry initiative, during which agent roundtables took place in YUL, YYZ and YVR.
The island state's Malama Program lets visitors volunteer in their choice of eight areas including beach clean up, cultural stewardship and wildlife preservation. A prime example is helping clean seaweed from the bay at Oahu – and the seaweed is then sent to local farms for composting. Partnering hotels even offer promotional rates when the visitors give up part of their vacation to get a better appreciation of the challenges featuring the renowned Pacific Paradise.
“We are ready to welcome visitors back, to share our very rich culture which sets us apart,” Kalani Ka’ana’ana, Chief Brand Officer for the Hawaii Tourism Authority told Open Jaw. “We are facing tourism impacts and our residents have made it clear to us we must protect their quality of life. And today’s visitor celebrates what we are trying to do.”
Other earth-friendly initiatives include the option to enjoy more locally-sourced foods – even dining at a host farm - and the sale of reef-friendly sunscreens in the islands.
The execs all agreed that travel agents are going through a revival as clients discover the services they provide, taking away anxiety and providing the details. As the Island of Hawai’i Visitors Bureau’s Ross Birch pointed out, “They don’t know what they don’t know.”
Including that there have been a lot of changes that even repeat visitors (an impressive 68% of Canadians) may be surprised to learn. There are now new or higher park visitation charges (including for parking). Access to some attractions may be capacity controlled, necessitating pre-arrival reservations. Making advance reservations at restaurants is highly recommended.
Meanwhile, the 120 agents attending the supplier round tables reported they loved the meaningful training. “We loved the little Hawai’ian language lesson – and the fact that all the properties are so keen to immerse the clients in the culture,” reported Amy Urquhart and Carolyn De Blieck of Pure Magic Vacations.
And partner Rob Taylor of Outrigger Hotels and Resorts how effective he thought the format was: “It was great to see the agents so engaged.”