HONOLULU — Cultural experiences, sustainable opportunities and locally sourced foods are important to visitors from the mainland, and those travelers are willing to pay more for those features, new research from University of Hawai‘i researchers found.
A 28-question online survey was randomly distributed to continental U.S. residents who had traveled on an airplane for vacation at least once in the last year.
Researchers from UH Manoa and UH West O‘ahu collected 455 survey responses, of which 64% were first-time visitors to Hawai‘i, while 36% had previously visited the islands.
Visitors ‘willing to pay more’
When asked if respondents were willing to pay more to experience and support sustainable tourism experiences in Hawai‘i, more than 70% answered “yes,” and approximately one-third stated they would pay more than 10% more.
More than 35% of respondents were willing to pay more than 10% extra to experience culturally respectful tourism experiences in Hawai‘i, and nearly 20% were willing to pay an additional 16%.
Some of these cultural experiences, study co-author and UH Manoa School of Travel Industry Management Professor Jerry Agrusa said, may include working in a taro patch, helping to rebuild ancient Hawaiian fishponds, cleaning up invasive species on a hiking trail and/or doing a beach cleanup.
“One of the things that families want is that they want something educational when on vacation — something that the children bring back, and this includes learning about the local culture,” Agrusa said.
In addition, UH researchers discovered that more than 75% of respondents reported that they are willing to pay additional fees for “authentic Hawaiian cultural experiences,” which Agrusa says aligns with the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority’s newly launched Malama Hawai‘i campaign and Hawaiian Airlines’ new “travel pono” in-flight video, placing a stronger emphasis on connecting with the culture, giving back and preserving it for the future.
Paying more for locally sourced food
A section of the survey was also dedicated to the locally sourced food/farming industry. Nearly 80% of respondents stated that they were willing to pay more to support locally grown food. More than 20% indicated that they would be willing to increase their food bill by 16% or more, while more than 37% of survey participants indicated that they would be willing to increase their bill by 11% or more.
Agrusa hopes this will encourage the farming industry to grow and partner with the hotel industry to sell their products to visitors instead of importing approximately 95% of the state’s food from around the world.
The research team comprises Agrusa, UH West O‘ahu Assistant Professor Holly Itoga, UH Manoa spring 2021 master of science in travel industry management graduate Gabriella Andrade, Ostfold University College Associate Professor Cathrine Linnes and UNLV Professor Joseph Lema.