Visitors willing to pay more for authentic Hawai‘i

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.

11 Comments
  1. TheTruth September 25, 2021 12:19 am Reply

    Just wondering if the state will be including as one of their cultural experiences they will be enlightening visitors about is Luakini which was where ancient Hawaiians practiced human sacrifice? And will you have museums about the violent Wars that each island had to conquer each other Island as their Kingdom? Or will you further the mythical idea of the Hawaiians being peaceful? Will you talk about how the people from Hawaii are not native to these islands and came from different parts of Polynesia? Or will you tell only your version that only these people that will pay 10% more want to hear instead of the truth hahaha


  2. Anahola Paul September 25, 2021 4:01 am Reply

    That’s common sense for mainland travelers. Give tourist an escape into Hawaiian history and culture…and they will pay more. They will pay lots more. Can someone convert that ghost of a hotel into a Hawaiian cultural center and bond our travelers into Kauai? Mark, can you step up and help us?


    1. Doug September 25, 2021 7:09 pm Reply

      Mark and his wife have “stepped up” and helped this island numerous times in the short time that they have been here, and we don’t need even more traffic at the intersection where the Coco Palms is located. That would turn what is already a nightmare into an even bigger nightmare. Since the land has meaning to native Hawaiians it would be much better to put a cultural center there for use by native Hawaiians only to teach their kids, conduct ceremonies, etc instead of turning it into yet another tourist trap.


      1. No Hotel at 'Coco Palms'! September 26, 2021 11:36 am Reply

        I believe your vision of a cultural center is what will be developed. And, it may offer opportunities to educate visitors about ‘the real Hawaiian culture’ as an offset to the superficial Hawai’i images they have long been shown. Yes, it will take some time to re-educate people (all over the world) about the real Hawaiian culture.
        Ultimately, the effort going on now (wailuanui.org) to buy and recreate a Hawaiian cultural area in what was formerly the Coco Palms hotel (and was the home of the Queen and the center of Kaua’i cultural life, before that), plans to set up community meetings that will decide the design of the area (Wailuanuiho’ano). Also that the community would keep it local by having a structure to control what is developed, how it is maintained, etc.
        In order to limit traffic and maximize the use of the land, off-site parking is being examined, with transportation to the site on shuttles.
        If you have opinions, watch for the forthcoming community meetings to discuss this project and make your voice heard!


  3. Rampartview September 25, 2021 6:40 am Reply

    Glad you got a survey to turn out the way you wanted it…wondering how many surveys were taken before you got it the way you wanted it. We never got one and I would guess it would be because we would not agree with your results. 455 folks who have flown in the last year…isn’t that the year that you basically closed tourism down>


  4. therealhawaiian September 25, 2021 7:00 am Reply

    If Kauai decided to tax tourists to the point that only 20% of them could afford to come, The environment and trash problems would be greatly improved on every level, it would substantially improve the number and status of visitors, and it would cut traffic by such a large margin that we would almost have the local quality of life we experienced in the Covid complete lockdown timeframe! Unemployment would continue to be an issue, so those unemployed would have to be dealt with and supported. Is it possible to figure out a realistic formula that might to make that a possibility?


    1. Sir Richard Pumpaloaf September 25, 2021 3:41 pm Reply

      And no more abandoned vehicles, too!!


  5. KauaiFarmMan September 25, 2021 7:23 am Reply

    Yeah right ! The cost of everything is so outrageous already for locals and we all know tourists are getting ripped off. And they waste time to put studies together to figure out how much more they can charge everyone. What greed. So unless you’re rich , you don’t deserve to visit Hawaii. Classic Democratic thinking.


  6. Ted DeMarce September 25, 2021 7:37 am Reply

    Being a many, many time traveler to Hawaii, YES, I would pay more for less tourist. Our Family always tried to learn on each trip as much as we could. It made the trips more fun. We have brought back many great memories, ,these I would say was brought about by the local folks. I am 83 years old and last year on Kauai I was helped by a nice young guy at a service station and a funny lady at the store, all showing the real Aloha spirit. Its fun to go some where that the people are happy,, as soon as this virus dies we are going back again. Many thanks, Ted,, Wenatchee WA.


  7. Anahola Kuleana September 25, 2021 12:42 pm Reply

    What we need from mr zuckerman is an algorithm that Kauai owns. One that , instead of collecting data to target people with propaganda and misinformation, collects data to target people education about the value and importance of our public trust resources and individual responsibilities in a democratic society. The concept of the common good being primary. Especially, in this case, in regard to Hawaiian culture. And individual responsibility to live within the framework of the greater good.


  8. Kukui Nut September 25, 2021 5:25 pm Reply

    You mean staying in Princeville and Hanalei isn’t authentic Hawaii?


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