KAILUA-KONA — The Hawaii Tourism Authority’s board of directors at the end of last month OK’d reallocating $2.5 million to support new marketing efforts to help boost tourism numbers on Hawaii Island following the drop that followed last year’s eruption.
The money, which will be used by Hawaii Tourism United States and Hawaii Tourism Japan, will support branding, marketing and publicity programs, adding to already ongoing programs in place by the agency’s global marketing team with guidance from the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau.
“We are very thankful to Chair Onishi and the state lawmakers for supporting the overall direction HTA is taking to do what is best for the community’s future on the island of Hawaii,” said president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Chris Tatum in a press release. “This new branding campaign is needed to help enhance how travelers see the Island of Hawaii as a destination and to revitalize tourism for the good of businesses and residents who rely on its sustainability.”
The release said the programs will follow an array of strategies aimed at travelers in “prime regional areas.” Among those programs is a bus tour to carry island representatives and cultural practitioners to cities on the West Coast to promote travel opportunities and demonstrate attractions and activities available throughout the island.
Last year’s eruption had a major effect on numbers associated with visitors’ arrivals and stays on the island. Through April 2018, HTS said, the island was “on a record-setting pace” with both visitor spending and arrivals up more than 12 percent. But in the ensuing eight months, spending and arrivals both steadily dropped with year-end numbers putting spending flat with an increase of just two tenths of a percent and visitor arrivals down 2.5 percent from the previous year.
Through the first two months of this year, Hawaii Island has seen what HTA calls “substantial decreases” in both spending and arrivals — down more than 10 percent on both fronts — compared to the same period from last year.
“With this new marketing campaign,” Tatum said, “our goals are to help reverse this continuing decline and emphasize to travelers the positive message about the abundance and diversity of attractions, activities, and sites to see and enjoy on the beautiful island of Hawaii.”