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The State of the Aloha StateDecember 31, 2013 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent
Andaz Maui is experiencing its first winter season.
With an eye out for trends and new products worth keeping tabs on, we look at what promises to be a busy 2014 in tourism to Hawaii. With visitor expenditures surpassing $12 billion during the first 10 months of 2013, tourism has contributed $1.26 billion in tax revenue for the state, an increase of 3.4 percent compared to last year. However, while we anticipate exceeding visitor arrival and spending records reached in 2012, the declines experienced in September and October are expected to continue through the remainder of this year and into 2014, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
David Uchiyama, vice president of brand management for the Hawaii Tourism Authority, tells Travel Agent that, “One of the challenges in 2014 will be to address changing visitor trends, in which [the HTA] will focus on building awareness of all of the things that the Hawaiian Islands have to offer. We want visitors to understand that the value goes beyond weighing travel costs.”
The LGBT Factor
One trend agents should be aware of is the state’s LGBT-friendly stance. It’s been estimated by tourism officials that the law to allow same-sex marriage in Hawaii is expected to boost tourism by roughly $200 million over the next three years. So expect a major boost in the LGBT market. A recent study by a University of Hawaii author states that Hawaii would benefit from pent-up demand for gay weddings, with couples spending $166 million over those three years on ceremonies and honeymoons.
“The fact that the state Senate of Hawaii passed the Marriage Equality Bill, becoming the 15th state to recognize same-sex marriage, will not only boost gay weddings in the island, but also position the destination within the LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] segment worldwide,” Carlos Melia of First in Service Travel, an agency based in New York, told Travel Agent.
Hawaii now becomes an outlet for couples in other states, bringing ceremonies, receptions and honeymoons to the islands.
“It is proven that LGBT consumers choose to spend their disposable income at destinations where they are/feel accepted, recognized and respected,” says Melia. “Hawaii has given a clear and loud ‘Aloha’ to the community, celebrating diversity and equal rights. I mean, Hawaii had everything you would wish for to celebrate a wedding, and now they have taken the step forward to make it official.”
The Hotel Picture
The Aloha State usually likes to lay low when it comes to hotel developments, but 2013 has been full of hotel announcements, from the upcoming unveiling of Andaz Maui at Wailea to news that Montage Hotels & Resorts will also be setting up shop in Maui in 2014. Concerning the latter, Montage Kapalua Bay will celebrate art and artisanship in many forms, including visually, and through culinary and spa offerings.
Poised to enjoy its first full year of operation in 2014, the Andaz Maui at Wailea has 297 guest rooms and suites including seven luxurious villas with two to four bedrooms, as well as a spa and two restaurants.
In July, the historic Volcano House hotel on Hawaii Island reopened following $4 million in retrofitting and safety upgrades by the National Park Service, and an additional $3 million in renovations and refurbishments by concessioners/owners, Ortega Family Enterprises.
Tour Operator News
Expect some discounts in 2014 from Journese, the luxury brand of Pleasant Holidays that continues to grow in Hawaii. Journese recently launched its exclusive Hawaii 500 promotion, offering spring booking bonuses to Kauai and Hawaii, the Big Island for both clients and agents. Clients receive exclusive resort savings and future travel credit up to $500 toward their next journey to the Hawaiian Islands, valid for travel by December 15, 2014. In addition, agents receive 500 bonus TRIP points on new bookings for trips originating from Oakland, San Diego or San Jose, CA.
Pleasant Holidays also recently announced the release of its 2014/2015 sales brochure for Hawaii vacations to the most popular islands. The brochure features an extensive product portfolio that includes 175 hotels and resorts on the six main islands.
Grand Wailea Resort and Spa was one of the first Hawaiian venues to host same-sex weddings.
Although there is probably some concern from agents on how MLT Vacations’ Hawaii portfolio will look in 2014 after the company officially ends its partnership with United Vacations at the end of this year, the company’s President John Caldwell recently told Travel Agent that agents’ concerns about Hawaii should be alleviated.
“There should really be no change as it relates to United customers heading to Hawaii,” says Caldwell. “It won’t really have a major impact on our business there. Delta Vacations has an incredible network to Hawaii. We have a partnership with Alaska Airlines, in conjunction with Hawaiian Airlines, where we can offer great rates.”
Destination to Watch
While the Kauai/Maui honeymoon is expected to be the most popular vacation among romantic Americans in 2014, we think the most buzz will surround Lanai and Larry Ellison’s plans for the island he purchased. Ellison, co-founder and chief executive of Oracle, bought Lanai for $300 million from American businessman David Murdock. And he bought two airlines to service it. His very ambitious plans for the destination include building a luxury hotel. He also plans to make the island perhaps the most environmentally friendly destination in Hawaii. Located only 45-minutes by ferry from Maui or a short plane ride from Oahu, Lanai, known as Hawaii’s ‘private island,’ is a great alternative or addition to the other more frequented, Hawaiian Islands.