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Julie Yoneyama, Director of Sales, Leisure for the Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau; Maile Brown, Director of Marketing for the Kauai Visitors Bureau; Karishma Chowfin, Director of Sales, Oahu Visitors Bureau; Deanna Isbister, Director of Sales for the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau

“Don’t shy away from selling Hawaii”: Agents get the latest updates at ALOHA Canada 2019

TORONTO — Hawaii has never been, and likely will never be, an all-inclusive destination. But there are still ways for agents to help their clients plan a wallet-friendly Hawaii vacation, say the state’s tourism reps.

The team was out in full force last night at Vue event space in Etobicoke for the ALOHA Canada 2019 industry event, hosted by Hawaii Tourism Canada, represented by VoX International.

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Agents took part in informational sessions presented by the islands’ hotel and airline partners, followed by dinner with more presentations about the islands themselves.

Not only can Hawaii be budget-friendly, it’s also a safe destination, says Karishma Chowfin, Director of Sales, Oahu Visitors Bureau.

“We will never be an all-inclusive destination,” says Chowfin. “But we really do have something to suit everyone’s budget. We have a wide range of product. And the culinary experiences are amazing.”

Her message for Canadian agents? “Don’t shy away from selling Hawaii. We really are accessible.”

Hawaii appeals to a wide range of travellers, and the destination is seeing more pick up from established markets like romance, destination weddings and vow renewals, as well as emerging trends including milestone travel and skip-gen travel.

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Condo accommodation has always been a popular option for Canadian visitors to Hawaii. With their full kitchens and amenities, they save time and money, and provide a home-away-from-home with all the cost savings that go with it. Julie Yoneyama, Director of Sales, Leisure for the Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau, notes that there’s a Target, a Walmart, a Costco “and a brand new Safeway” right nearby Maui’s Kahului Airport, making for quick grocery pick-up upon arrival.

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While the cost savings of making your own meals is considerable, Yoneyama urges travellers to nevertheless seek out at least a few local restaurants for some authentic meals out. She also suggests checking out the latest copy of Maui Time for the publication’s popular listings of local happy hour offerings and free entertainment, as another way to save money and still experience the local culture. “We say, pick one or two restaurants and then do the rest of the meals at home” in the condo, says Yoneyama.

Both Air Canada and WestJet have flights to Hawaii, plus there are connector options via U.S. carriers like United Airlines.

Many clients no doubt heard about the volcano eruption on the Island of Hawaii. Last month marked the 1-year anniversary since Kilauea’s eruption ended. Deanna Isbister, Director of Sales for the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau, says that visitors to Kilauea “have been very curious. They want education. The ranger talks and walks have been very popular.”

Last year also brought flooding to Kauai, especially to the North Shore. Impacted areas, including the parks along the North Shore, reopened in June 2019.

Before the flooding, Haena State Park “was overrun”, says Maile Brown, Director of Marketing for the Kauai Visitors Bureau. The popular park includes Ke’e Beach and Kalalau Trail. “We were getting 2,000 people a day” to the site, and the high levels of visitation were beginning to have a negative impact on the park, beach and trail, she says.

The site was closed during the worst of the flooding and during that time the island developed a reservation system for visitation. Thirty days out, visitors can reserve their spot to visit the park, at a cost of US$5 plus tax. For individual entry the cost is $1.

All the spots sell out, says Brown, and visitors are advised to plan early and reserve their preferred date. The reservation system has been in place for several months now but more than 200 cars a day are turned away, so it’s important for agents to help get the word out, says Brown. Reservations can be made at gohaena.com.

The good news is, the reservation system is mitigating the effects of over-tourism on the site. It’s just one of many steps Hawaii is taking to further responsible travel. Other initiatives include participation in Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants program. Hawaii has also moved to ban the sale of sunscreens by 2021 containing oxybenzone and octinoxate in an effort to protect coral reefs.

Chowfin reminds agents that the 75th anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty onboard the U.S.S. Missouri ending Japan’s involvement in WWII is coming up in 2020. Agents can reach out to Hawaii Tourism Canada and Hawaii’s tourism reps to start putting together packages for clients, including history and military buffs.

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Hawaii Tourism Canada does a great job promoting the destination, adds Chowfin. When it comes to selling Hawaii, “it’s all about education, education, education. We urge agents to get as much education as they can.” A wide range of resources is available at agents.gohawaii.ca.