One-on-One With Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau's Julie Zadeh at LTX

During our recent coverage of the 2013 Luxury Travel Exchange International (LTX), Travel Agent sat down with Julie Zadeh, managing director, travel trade marketing for the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, and discussed what could be Hawaii's best ever year in tourism.

While 2012 was a record year for Hawaii tourism, 2013 arrivals are up 5.5 percent and expenditures up 5.7 percent year-to-date.

"This is really one of the best years we've ever had," says Zadeh. "Our arrivals our up, our spending is up, our ADRs, which is how we really measure success, is very strong too."

Visitors from around the world continued to choose the Hawaiian Islands during the first seven months of 2013. So far this year, visitors spent an average of $41 million per day – $20 million on Oahu, $11 million in Maui County, $5 million on Hawaii Island and $4 million on Kauai, which supports more than 167,000 jobs and has provided $911 million in state tax revenue year-to-date.

She attributes the success to an increase in flights from the East Coast as well as the buzz created by all the new hotels that are setting up shop in Hawaii.

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 be also be setting up shop in Maui.

"I think it's very telling that we are attracting all of those known luxury brands," she says. "That luxury clientele is coming to Hawaii and so are the hotels."

In July, the historic Volcano House hotel on Hawaii Island officially reopened following a closure that included $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.

"We are currently refreshing our products, there is constantly new product coming in, especially when you look at what Larry Ellison is doing in Lanai," says Zadeh, noting the ongoing development of Lanai, an island recently purchased by Oracle's Ellison. "Last year, the main focus was multi-generational clients. While that has continued in 2013, we are starting to see more of a focus on that first-time Hawaii visitor and we think all of the new flights and new hotel buzz are responsible for that."