Here is some additional coverage from our Hawaii Roundtable.
As a recap: at the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s annual Hawaii Tourism Conference in Honolulu, Travel Agent invited some of the state’s major tourism players to participate in a roundtable discussion of Hawaii’s tourism picture, past, present and future. Travel Agent was represented by Kerry Cannon, Mark Rogers and Suzanne Craven, and Simone Chris of Abbott Communications. Our panelists were Jonna Jackson of Classic Vacations; Dean Johnson of Creative Leisure; Mike Paulin of Aqua Hotels; Rob Solomon of Outrigger Hotels; Jay Talwar of the Hawaii Visitors Convention Bureau; Michael Troy of Starwood Hotels; and Marsha Wienert, State Tourism Liaison. The agent point-of-view was provided by Mary Lou Lewis and Sandy Portnoy of HNL Travel.
(NOTE: In the days after the Hawaii Roundtable, the Hawaii Superferry was forced to suspend operations pending an environmental impact study.)
Mark Rogers: The Hawaii Superferry has had a controversial introduction into the tourism landscape. Will visitors be encouraged to drive onto the ferry with their rental car and visit the other islands, or is this just a total crock?
Sandy Portnoy: One of the things I think everyone was surprised about is people getting on the Superferry this weekend and going to Maui and then turning around and coming back and loving the experience.
Jay Talwar: And maybe when they have more than one Superferry here, if they get to that level, then it will be easier for visitors to take advantage of the island-hopping.
Rob Solomon: Actually, all of these years, a lot of people believed we had ferries. Some even thought we had bridges.
Mark Rogers: I haven't been on the Superferry yet. While you're on this thing for three hours, is it enjoyable? Is there a nice lounge or restaurant?
Michael Troy: There are different tiered prices that you can purchase. You can make it as extravagant an experience. It’s a matter of customer preference. And kudos to the people taking the risk of bringing the Superferry to the islands. They've made it so it can appeal to the masses, from the business person that wants to be able to do business on two islands to the visitor who wants to do a day trip to Maui and back. I think for the hostels, the student that wants to take a bike and go to the islands, that's one quick way to do it.
Mark Rogers: There’s a real move towards sustainability and green tourism in the Caribbean and Latin America. Is Hawaii moving in this direction?
Jonna Jackson: I think Hawaii was in the forefront of actually doing things like water conservation. If a guest didn’t want their sheets changed, they could put out a card. I think we were the first to do this. Other areas are definitely taking advantage of this - more so probably than Hawaii does.
Mike Paulin: But I think that a lot of our properties, especially over the last few years, have leaned toward conservation in everything that they do. We haven't nicknamed it "green" or being more of a "green" hotel. We did it because it's the right thing to do.
Jay Talwar: There's a real focus here in terms of managing the destination in a way where we don't create a destination that looks like the place people are trying to escape from. In general, there's not going to be a whole lot of infrastructure built from what we have now. And so, we're looking at the value equation for each visitor, how to increase the value of each visitor to the stakeholders, but also increase the value of their experience. The environmental issues are a big part of it. And sustainability goes beyond the environmental issues. It also goes to cultural sustainability. This is a big investment area for the Hawaii Tourism Authority. In fact, our team right now is going through another cultural training program where they're being educated on Hawaiian cultural practices. We're all residents here. We're all in love with this place. And we've got to make sure that even if we're in the industry that it's maintained and left for the next generation in a very positive way.