Karen Hughes – VP, Meet Hawaii and Travel Industry Partnerships, Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau

Karen Hughes – VP, Meet Hawaii and Travel Industry Partnerships, Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau

Karen Hughes – VP, Meet Hawaii and Travel Industry Partnerships, Hawaii Visitors & Convention BureauThe newly revamped agents.gohawaii.com website offers a suite of innovative tools and engaging content and provides a source of inspiration to plan a Hawaii vacation, says Karen Hughes, VP, Meet Hawaii and Travel Industry Partnerships, Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau. Check out this latest edition of Friday Five for more details.

1) The Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau recently launched a new social media campaign targeting first-time visitors to the islands. What’s the untapped potential when it comes to key-market Canadian travellers who haven’t yet vacationed in Hawaii?

Hughes: While ‘Let Hawaii Happen’ primarily targets U.S. travellers, we are also reaching travellers across Canada with this marketing effort. With 99% of our Canadian visitors giving their Hawaii vacations top ratings, and with nearly all of these visitors also saying they are highly likely to recommend Hawaii to their friends and relatives, there is a huge opportunity to use social media to enlist those who have already been to the islands in HVCB’s effort to increase first-time visitor bookings.

2) What are the latest figures out of Canada to Hawaii and are you seeing growth from central and eastern Canada?

Hughes: More than 523,000 Canadians visited Hawaii in 2014, an increase of 1.3% over the same period in the prior year. These 2014 preliminary Canadian visitor arrival numbers, from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, do not include regional break-outs of the Canada market.

3) Travellers may think that Hawaii’s main islands are fairly similar, but in fact the vibe on each is quite different. How would you characterize Hawaii, Maui, Lanai, Kauai and Molokai?

Hughes: There are a lot of similar traits across the Hawaiian Islands, but each one has its own distinct personality and appeal.

Kauai is a lush, garden paradise favored by Hollywood for its tropical splendor that has been the backdrop for many films, including ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and ‘The Descendants’. Unspoiled beauty abounds, from emerald valleys and mountain ranges to the dramatic sea cliffs along the Napali Coast. It’s the perfect setting for relaxation and rejuvenation.

Mount Waialeale, Kauai

Mount Waialeale, Kauai.

Oahu combines the best of both worlds – town and country – with cosmopolitan conveniences surrounded by breathtaking exotic scenery. Home to Honolulu, the state capital and a vibrant, cosmopolitan centre of international commerce, visitors have access to a variety of great shopping, dining, and entertainment options but can also escape to the country for a low-key retreat if they choose.

Lanai is an island of contrasts – from the sophistication of two Four Seasons Resorts on one side, to the rural charm of Hotel Lanai on the other, making it the perfect island for a secluded getaway. Instead of high-rises, stoplights, traffic jams and shopping centres, there is one small town square and only 30 miles of paved roads on the entire island. With 89,600 acres of countryside, outdoor adventures await from fishing, swimming, diving, hiking, hunting and riding horseback.

Molokai appeals to those seeking a taste of a more rural lifestyle or what many consider to be ‘old Hawaii’. It’s here that vacationers can enjoy the simpler pleasures of life – untouched natural beauty, uncrowded beaches, no traffic lights and one main road that connects the two ends of the island.

From exquisite resorts to small, charming towns, Maui has it all. The valleys, golden beaches, forested mountains, grasslands and open plains that make up the island are home to some of Hawaii’s most storied attractions, including the fabled whaling town of Lahaina; the world’s largest dormant volcano in Haleakala Crater; the winding road leading to idyllic Hana, and the gorgeous white sands of Kaanapali Beach.

As the largest of the Hawaiian Islands and still growing, visitors to Hawaii Island should be prepared for an adventure. Home to all but two of the world’s eco-climates, the island features a diverse range of inspiring landscapes from tropical rainforests, volcanic desserts, black and white sand beaches that can be explored from earth, sea or sky.

4) Hawaii is a couple’s paradise, but there’s so much for families too. What are some of the key selling points for families vacationing in Hawaii?

Hughes: Families love Hawaii because there is something for everyone. Beautiful beaches, outdoor adventure, history, arts and culture, shopping, golf, and spas all within close proximity to the major resorts and destinations on each island. The hotels and resorts are also stepping up to provide families with a variety of activities, programs and experiences to enjoy both on and off-property.

What really makes a Hawaii vacation special though are the incredible, unplanned moments that families can share with each other when they just let Hawaii happen. Hawaii is an incredibly rich destination, with its unique culture, traditions, and experiences found nowhere else in the world.

5) How can Canadian travel agents educate themselves about Hawaii as a destination and as a lucrative sale?

Hughes: The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau just launched a new and improved website designed specifically for travel professionals (agents.gohawaii.com). The Hawaiian Islands Travel Agent Resource Center is a great opportunity for agents to learn about the destination and the many facets that differentiate each island. The revamped site features a suite of innovative tools, engaging content, and provides a source of inspiration to plan a Hawaii vacation.

During the development process, travel professionals were always top of mind because we recognized business is conducted 24/7, in and out of the office. In addition to the site delivering upgraded sales and marketing tools, we introduced the new, multi-module Official Hawaii Destination Specialist (HDS) Program, which is easily accessible from a computer, tablet and smartphone.

For agents who have graduated from Ke Kula o Hawaii, our former destination specialist program, we’re encouraging them to renew their specialist status, take this opportunity to gain valuable sales tips, learn new information, and reignite their passion for Hawaii.

Travel professionals are important to us and expand our marketing reach. We know our new site will aid them to be successful sellers and promoters of Hawaii.