Hawaii Tourism Authority Rolls Out Programs to Attract Visitors
By Mimi Kmet
August 24, 2012 8:52 AM
The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) is rolling out new ways to attract new visitors to the destination and bring back repeat visitors. David Uchiyama, the HTA’s vice president of brand management, made the announcements the organization’s annual conference this week.
Among the programs, the Hawaii Fare Surfer, a booking engine for the best fares and wholesaler packages, will be rolled out soon and has been loaded onto iTunes, according to Uchiyama. There’s also a widget on the HTA website. “It’s like Kayak.com for Hawaii,” he said. It identifies a fare, which you can click and automatically go to the site of the carrier that’s offering that fare. You can also click on “vacation packages” to get a list of packages. Uchiyama said travel agents will still receive commissions.
The Ma’ema’e program is currently being rolled out in the U.S. The program enables Hawaii’s travel partners to be more culturally sensitive, according to Uchiyama. The online toolkit, available via the HTA website, provides things like an auto correct function for the correct spelling of Hawaiian words, as well as a list of cultural activities and other pertinent information.
The So Much More Hawaii program is targeted at repeat visitors who have already seen popular attractions like Waikiki Beach and the Arizona Memorial and want a more in-depth cultural experience, Uchiyama said. Available on the Hawaii Visitor and Convention Bureau website, the program offers information on experiences, including hands-on taro farming and smaller art museums.
Heritage Sites, also aimed at repeat travelers, is a listing of culturally significant locations, “because there’s a huge interest in sites that have historical or cultural significance,” Uchiyama said.
The Heritage Series (a working name) consists of events at culturally significant locations, addressing five aspects of tourism -- the Hawaiian language, Hawaiian music, hula, Hawaii food and surfing. The HTA recently completed a pilot event with the Iolani Palace, the Bishop Museum and the Honolulu Art Academy. Participants -- about half of whom were visitors -- were bused among the three locations. At each attraction, there were tours, food and music. The HTA plans to roll this program out in the next couple of months, and the goal is to offer an event once a month.
Meanwhile Mahalo Month, which the HTA launched two years ago, has grown steadily. The program, which actually takes place over two months -- April and May -- is an opportunity for travel agents who can’t participate in a scheduled wholesaler fam or who would rather customize an individual fam to visit the islands on their own. This year, the program attracted more than 1,600 agents with more than 100 offers from hotels, wholesalers and other suppliers. The offers are posted on the HTA website.
“The only way we’ll be able to sustain interest is to offer these educational opportunities so they can become the Hawaii experts we want them to be,” Uchiyama said.