The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) hopes to rebrand the islands to attract “conscious, respectful and high-value travelers” this year, after seeking $60 million in state funding to help promote more responsible tourism.
According to the Honolulu Civil Beat, Governor David Ige and his administration requested the money to focus on promoting environmental and cultural programs that travelers would want to participate in during their stay, which would have a beneficial impact on the islands.
$34.2 million would be spent on branding activities, while $14.4 million would go towards the tourism organization’s global marketing programs. The money, if approved, would be spent in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Changing the way the Hawaiian Islands are perceived, from a beautiful beach destination to a destination to be respected and explored for its multicultural heritage and rich but fragile ecosystems, also aims to help Hawaiian residents cope with a large number of tourists. If more travelers are respectful and can voluntarily contribute to the islands’ sustainability or cultural initiatives, residents are also more likely to welcome them.
This is the first year the tourism authority will have to seek a budget from lawmakers, due to changes to the program during the pandemic. Last year’s budget was the same amount, which was lower than its 2019 budget by $79 million, but its source came from federal relief funds, not the Hawaiian government.
“To me, branding is a lot like – if I had to use an agricultural metaphor – it’s like soil quality, keeping it full of nutrients, keeping it airy, keeping it fertile,” the chairman and chief said. of the direction of HTA, John De Fries. . “So whether your business is a large hotel or you’re a family store in Hana, whatever you plant in this soil called tourism grows well because people understand that Hawaii is something unique, special and memorable, and worth investing in vacation time.
According to an HTA survey of Hawaiian residents conducted in late 2020, 67% either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed that the island of Hawaii is “run for tourists at the expense of locals.” which is not sustainable for the residents.
Despite the pandemic and Hawaii’s strict entry requirements, which now require a booster dose, Hawaii has seen large numbers of tourists entering the state in 2020 and 2021. According to HTA data, the number of arrivals by air in the state in 2020 is 2.6 million. people; The number of travelers in 2021 is even higher, at more than 6 million. In 2019, that number was 10.2 million.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority has developed a more conscious idea of how tourism can be throughout the pandemic; one of its programs, Malama Hawaii, offers travelers perks such as discounts and even free nights at hotels or resorts in exchange for their volunteer time for one of many initiatives, such as the restoration of a forest at Gunstock Ranch or participating in a beach cleanup.
The program is part of its 2025 strategic plan, which aims to strengthen the state’s commitment to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
While some governors are skeptical of the HTA’s large budget and corresponding goals, the Hawaii Tourism Authority is optimistic about working with the legislature to finalize an appropriate budget.
For more information on the Hawaiian Tourism Authority, please visit their website.