A recent meeting with the Hawaii Tourism Authority provided a lot of insight for attendees to learn about the profiles and expectations of visitors to Hawaii and, in particular, Kauai. While the U.S. West continues to be the main driver of visitors to Kauai, followed by the U.S. East, countries representing Canada, Japan and geographic regions of Europe, Oceania Asia, Latin America and others represent a growing segment of the Kauai market.
For many of us growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, the wave of Japanese visitors had Kauai as the No. 1 neighbor island choice. Today, it represents a small but, still important sector of the economy. In the same range of the data provided, Europe and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) are about on par with Japan. A striking difference is in the length of stay, for example, among Europeans who average about two to three weeks of travel unlike their Japanese counterparts.
An important and growing segment is the Other Asia category which includes Korea, China and Taiwan which comprise East Asia. These “Tiger” economies clearly represent Hawaii’s future and must fit into our visitor algorithm when it comes to providing accommodations, services, attractions, etc. In recognition of the small but growing Chinese market, the Chamber has a Basic Chinese for Visitor Industry, Restaurant, Retail and General Business Use, thanks to the support and partnership of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association – Kauai Chapter and Kauai Visitors Bureau.
While the class will focus on the cultural and doing business aspect rather than primarily the language focus, for very basic beginners, especially, those in these industry sectors, it will begin the process of creating a workforce a little more in tune with what our Chinese guests expectations are, including perceptions vis-à-vis of each other.
Hawaiian Airlines recent launch of direct Beijing-Honolulu service in April of this year represents a commitment by Hawaii’s airline in executing a long-term plan of this strategic market that has historical, cultural and geographic ties to Hawaii. Research has confirmed that the Chinese visitors’ daily expenditures are much higher than the Japanese visitor. For some of the Kauai businesses who have had visitors from China, while Kauai has a long way to go in growing our market share, investments in staff training, infrastructure (signage, etc.) and other helpful bilingual information (websites which have Mandarin translation) will help Chinese visitors navigate their experience on Kauai to become successful one.
Of particular interest to Kauai’s Filipino community, while a very small number of about 1,500 Filipinos visited Kauai, the Philippines ranked third of 15 countries and, is part of the “Other Markets to Kauai” 2013 category. Unbeknownst to many and in spite of Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines last fall, the Philippine economy has been growing annually, at a steady pace of between 6.5 to 7.0 percent. This economic growth has placed the country just behind China and ahead of its Asian and South East Asian counterparts. In a report by the World Bank headquartered in Manila, the “Sick Man of Asia” has been on the mend for the past few years, thanks in part to policies enacted by President Aquino.
Over the next few years, the country is poised for even more growth. So what does this mean for tourism and Kauai? Like the “China Factor,” Kauai must continue to position our physical plant, customer service interactions and other services and activities to be in alignment with visitors from other parts of the world. Fortunately, for Kauai, which has the largest percentage of Filipinos of any island, and has a population reflected in various industry sectors, there are many who already are part of the community fabric and who continue to contribute to a growing Filipino tourism sector, especially, the frontline employees. To learn more, visit www.hawaiitourismauthority.org.
Lastly, Kauai and the state of Hawaii will be participating in a first-ever “Hawaii on the Hill” event in Washington, D.C. this summer. This event is a tradition on Capitol Hill for states to host events as a means of promoting their state and highlighting the things that are unique to the state. Showcasing state pride, these events feature food and other goods produced in a particular state and/or a state’s capabilities.
Hosted by the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, a series of events on Capitol Hill will include a “Taste of Hawaii,” at which Hawaii’s food, culture and industries will be showcased. This will be the first time Hawaii will participate in this annual event that will include the state and island Chambers of Commerce as well as counties. This year’s event will be led by Hawaii’s Congressional Delegation who will serve as the honorary co-chairs. As of this writing, iconic Kauai name brands including Kauai Kookie, Kauai Coffee, Aunty Lilikoi, Salty Wahine, and Koloa Rum Co. are participating in addition to the Kauai Chamber of Commerce and County of Kauai who will also have exhibits representing agriculture, tourism, military, research and technology and manufacturing.
• Randy Francisco, president of the Kauai Chamber of Commerce and secretary-convener, Kauai Business Council