The Hawaiian Islands are unlike anywhere in the world. While sun, sand and surf have made them a world-renowned dream destination, Hawaii is also a dynamic and vibrant place to live and visit. From relaxing on the world’s best beaches and dining at acclaimed restaurants to seeing movie stars at film festivals or top athletes at premier sporting events, where else would an isolated destination have access to so many world-class events and experiences?
As the fourth busiest international gateway into the US, the Hawaiian Islands welcomed a record 8.28 million visitors in 2014, who generated $14.7 billion in expenditures and $1.6 billion in state tax revenue.
To maintain this success, the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), the state’s tourism agency, works with businesses, non-profit and community organizations to foster and cultivate programs and projects that provide residents and visitors with a variety of unique experiences and offerings that benefit communities and grow the economy.
Hawaii has a colorful and distinct local culture that blends Native Hawaiian and multi-ethnic heritage. The Aloha State recognizes a variety of special events from honoring King Kamehameha or perpetuating hula at the Merrie Monarch Festival, to celebrating Chinese New Year, the Filipino Fiesta or Japanese obon. Its collective and inclusive customs are great visitor experiences, which allows Hawaii to share and continue long-time traditions that enrich communities.
This year, the HTA is supporting 181 Signature Events and Product Enrichment Programs statewide, which help to sustain Hawaii’s natural resources, and cultivate, preserve and promote old and new traditions that honor cultural diversity and differentiate the destination.
The HTA’s Signature Events program promotes some of the state’s most highly anticipated events including the HTA’s Major Festivals like the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, Hawaii International Film Festival, Honolulu Festival, Koloa Plantation Days Festival, Maui Film Festival, Pan Pacific Festival and Kona Coffee Cultural Festival.
As part of this program, HTA is also the major sponsor of five Signature Native Hawaiian Festivals, including the Prince Kuhio Celebration, Merrie Monarch Festival, King Kamehameha Celebration, Prince Lot Hula Festival and Aloha Festivals.
The HTA also supports 15 select Signature Sporting Events like the Sony Open in Hawaii on Oahu, XTERRA World Championship on Maui, Ironman World Championship on Hawaii Island and the Kauai Marathon. Last year, these world-class events generated over $200 million in broadcast ad value, more than $100 million in direct visitor spending and charitable donations for the state. They also diversify visitor and resident experiences, and enhance Hawaii’s presence as a premier sports destination.
Every year, HTA partners with its counties and the Hawaii Community Foundation to support CPEP programs. The 91 HTA CPEP programs this year encompass arts, music, food and cultural festivals, and sports and wellness events throughout the state, like the upcoming Hawaii Island Puna Music Festival, Oahu’s We are Samoa Festival, Maui’s 23rd Celebration of the Arts and Kauai’s May Day by the Bay.
While tourism is the lead economic driver in Hawaii, the key to the state’s success is its host culture and people. Programs that highlight the diverse history, culture and landscape attract visitors back to the Hawaiian Islands, stimulate the tourism economy, sustain jobs, and create volunteer and philanthropic opportunities.
The tourism industry and community, must continue to work together to foster these types of programs, which create new and authentic experiences, enhance lifestyles, engage and connect communities, sustain resources and perpetuate and educate the youth and others about what makes Hawaii so special, so that it may strengthen its identity as a destination and a state.