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Travel trends don't bode well for Hawaii

Americans are traveling more often, but making shorter trips closer to home. They also have more destinations to choose from.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Americans are traveling more often, but making shorter trips closer to home. They also have more destinations to choose from.

These trends don't bode well for Hawaii, one of the most remote places in world, tourism officials said Tuesday.

"For many years, Hawaii has enjoyed an enviable position atop the heap of global tropical destinations," said John Monahan, president and chief executive of the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau. "However, our competitors have not been standing still. They have been consistently upgrading, improving and aggressively marketing their product, and at an accelerated pace in recent years."

Speaking to nearly 1,000 industry officials at the bureau's annual luncheon in Waikiki, Monahan warned of challenges tourism-dependent Hawaii will face in the coming years. The message was more bleak than in recent years when officials gathered to celebrate record visitor numbers.

State tourism liaison Marsha Wienert said Monahan's remarks were "right on," and agreed that Hawaii faces new challenges.

Visitors from Japan continue to decline, the U.S. economy is not as strong as years past and more tourist destinations are emerging all over the world.

HVCB, a private agency hired by the state to market Hawaii to North America, reported a "slowing of business" this year with arrivals forecast at slightly below last year's record levels. But visitor expenditures are on pace to eclipse last year's mark.

Last year, Hawaii welcomed a total of 7.4 million people that spent a record $12 billion.

Hawaii needs to continue making improvements to infrastructure — such as roads, airports and basic services — for visitors and for the residents, Monahan said

"Resident satisfaction with our communities and our quality of life is critical to visitor industry success," he said.

With Americans having fewer days to spend on vacation, Monahan said it's critical for Hawaii to improve its product and service to stay ahead.

"Time poverty results in a shift in competition from fight for a share of wallet, to an emphasis on share of clock," he said.

Hawaii must also use more creative and efficient ways to reach consumers as new media formats such as online video become increasingly popular.

Emerging destinations, such as Dubai and China, have learned that tourism provides a major boost to their economies and is a clean industry.

"The world is our competition," Wienert said. "We used to say Mexico, California, the Caribbean. Now it's much broader."