Meh: Visitor satisfaction down slightly this year

HILO — Visitors to the Big Island left with good impressions during the first half of this year, according to reports from the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

The HTA released its customer satisfaction reports for the first two quarters of 2018 last week. According to the reports, approximately 75 percent of surveyed visitors to Hawaii Island reported “excellent” satisfaction at the end of their visits.

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While most visitor demographics reported similar rates of satisfaction as they did last year, some groups were less satisfied than they had been. In the first quarter, 75 percent of visitors from Oceania reported excellent satisfaction, a sharp decline from the 91 percent who reported the same in 2017. Similarly, Korean visitors, 92 percent of which reported excellent satisfaction in Q1 2017, were also less impressed this year, with only 71 percent reporting excellent satisfaction.

Visitors from other areas, including the east and west U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan and China, reported largely the same rates of satisfaction this year and last year, with between 75 and 80 percent reporting excellent satisfaction.

“It’s critical to know whether we’re doing a great job so that we can keep people coming back,” said Ross Birch, president of the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau.

In both quarters, more visitors from each market reported that they were “very likely” to return to the Big Island than any other option, while less than 10 percent of visitors in most markets said that returning would be “very unlikely.”

Birch said the bureau hopes to use the results of the survey to improve its advertising reach in specific markets.

“Our No. 1 goal is to engage more people with our marketing,” Birch said.

Less than half of nearly all demographics reported that their awareness of the Big Island as a travel destination was influenced by advertising. The only exception, visitors from Japan, had been influenced by an advertising push that coincided with Japan Airlines beginning nonstop daily flights between Tokyo and Kailua-Kona last year, Birch said.

However, Birch said the reach of advertising may be more subtle than visitors realize.

“We’ve been moving into more social media-driven marketing,” Birch said. “So a lot of people are seeing it, and they’re ads, and they may recognize them as ads, but a lot of people might not realize it.”

The report also enumerated which areas on the island were more popular. Predictably, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was the most popular Big Island attraction in the first and second quarters, attracting no fewer than 40 percent of visitors from any market area, and as many as 76 percent from some markets.

However, the park attracted smaller percentages of visitors in the second quarter, presumably as a result of the eruption of Kilauea, which occurred toward the end of the quarter in May and closed the park for months.

Birch said the results of the reports are still valuable, even if they don’t account for the significant disruption to the tourism industry caused by the Kilauea Volcano eruption.

“They’re a good sign of where we were at the beginning of it all,” Birch said, adding that he believes Maunakea summit and Waipio Valley may have been the most-trafficked destinations on the island during the third quarter, when the national park was closed.

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Other attractions on the Big Island that generated a significant amount of traffic during the first and second quarters included the Punaluu Black Sand Beach, Rainbow Falls and Maunakea.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.