Hawaii Tourism has $60 Million to Attract New Visitors, BUT…

Kyle Kawakami

The People. The Place. The Hawaiian Islands. This is the new marketing campaign announced by the Hawaii Tourism Authority to attract mindful and responsible visitors to the Aloha State.  How far is this from a harsh reality, and state of the travel industry in Hawaii?

The People. The Place. The Hawaiian Islands is the name of a new and just announced marketing campaign by the now well funded Hawaii Tourism Authority.

“The People. The Place. The Hawaiian Islands” is a aimed at travelers who are interested in learning about the culture of the islands, protecting their natural resources, and being mindful of safety precautions. 

Photos released today explaining this new advertising campaign by Hawaii no longer shows beautiful beaches and water activities this Island State is famous for, but food trucks, a picnic in the park and smiling tourists.

Kyle Kawakami 2 | eTurboNews | eTN
Hawaii Tourism has $60 Million to Attract New Visitors, BUT...

This campaign, however, still forgets tourism is actually a money-making business.

Most tourists traveling to Waikiki will do this to have Mai Tais, eat good food, surf and swim, or just lie out in the sun at busy Waikiki Beach. Such visitors are looking for fun, parties, and alcohol and may be disappointed with an ever-more disappearing nightlife.

They don’t even think about booking a vacation to Hawaii so they can protect the resources or be specifically mindful of busy residents who have to work 2-3 jobs to make ends meet.

They also won’t find a true cultural experience when roaming Kalakaua Ave in Waikiki, except for a Luau designed for visitors.

It can only be assumed that many potential clients have thought about going on a 6-hour west coast flight on a Boeing 737-Max to compare realities.

It appears it is the intention by the Hawaii Tourism Authority to discourage such guests to consider traveling to the Aloha State.

I can only assume this may make the Hon. Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism for Jamaica, smile. After all, tourism is also a competitive business.

Reading his masterful speech given today to his government tourism task group is something every lawmaker in Hawaii should study and learn from.

The author Juergen Steinmetz, who has resided in Hawaii since 1988 and is also the chairman of the World Tourism Network, explains:

As eTurboNews was told by the Hon. Kenneth Bryan, Minister of Tourism for the Cayman Islands, and Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, some time ago, flying from Los Angeles to his island is faster compared to flying to Hawaii.

I was recently asked by a Hawaii State House elected official to consider making a sizable donation to another politician. This could help me get a high-paying seat on the board of the powerful Hawaii Tourism Authority.

This is just how everything works in the State of Hawaii, and it has not changed in the 36 years I called this paradise my home. Political appointments are given to unqualified people clueless when it comes to think out of the box.


Never mind the record number of homeless people unable to afford $3500 monthly rent.

A productive members of society, a former contributor to this publication, Scott Foster is among the many homeless people on Pahu now living in his car. He suffered a stroke at age 70 and has been roaming Honolulu’s streets since Christmas day.

He once was a key player and ran the political campaign for former Governor Cayetano. He was also a key player in the Marriage Equality movement for LGBTQ people and well known by the current governor, Green.

He now gets a taste of what it means for homeless citizens to be chased from one beach to another, from one public park to another, or from one highway bridge to the next.

Even with the $2500.00 monthly social security and benefits he receives as a former US military veteran, he is unable to find housing and was turned down when applying due to his credit rating.

He now suffered a second stroke and is currently recovering in a hospital with Medicare paying his bill.

Even with 2 or 3 jobs, people share apartments. No wonder you find many ex-Hawaiian residents in Las Vegas, California and other states. A former teller working for First Hawaiian Bank was able to keep her job, living in a tent on the street.

The Facts Around Hotel Occupancy in Hawaii

Some hotels are forced to close half of their rooms because they don’t find enough housekeepers. At the same time the hotels charge the highest rates experienced in decades, while airline tickets remain cheap. Flights may be full with non revenue frequent mileage flyers or staff stand by passengers. Judging by the rates charged, they don’t sell out with paying passengers.

Hotel GMs and airline officials don’t comment on this, but they don’t deny. I was told by a GM in Maui, he wants to remain quiet and off the record there is too much pressure and corruption for any noise in this issue.

The fun places in Hawaii are closing

Many restaurants, attraction operators, and nightclubs no longer have enough business to sustain their operations, with rent constantly increasing while business decreases.

The Albanian immigrant owner of the Illy coffee place in Ala Moana told eTurboNews, he would love to open his store in the morning, like Starbucks does, but the shopping center would charge him a premium for this priviledge, so it becomes unsustainable. At the same time an increasing number of closed retail space is visible both at Ala Moana and also Pearl Ridge shopping center.

The meeting place of the Pacific is still a dream. The modern Hawaii Convention Center remains empty most of the time.

Written many years ago by now-homeless contributor Scott Foster.

At the same time, the rail that took 20+ years and billions of Dollars to build is not even close to finished. You hardly see any passengers on the short operating route serving secondary regions of Oahu.

$60 Million to market Hawaii in 2024

Having secured $60 million in marketing funding, the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA) has launched new targeted campaigns as part of its global marketing and visitor education efforts. The purpose of these initiatives is to reinvigorate responsible travel demand from key markets around the world to the Hawaiian Islands.

Hawaii remains expensive, all-inclusive resorts are not part of the portfolio, and the quality of most resorts cannot be measured by competing destinations.

However the Hawaii Tourism Authority seems to understand the need to change course and start doing what they are mandated as a public agency- promote tourism with a BUT….

HTA remains quiet

eTurboNews reached out to HTA and its PR agency FINN Partners , that is Hawaii’s largest integrated marketing and communications company and promises on its website it’s helping local brands go national and global brands go local.

The local way of communicating is not to communicate, a trend eTurboNews experienced from the Hawaii Tourism Authority throughout the COVID pandemic until today.

Hawaii Tourism Authority’s PR agency Finn Partners, writes in its press release circulated today:

“We are being more assertive in our messaging strategy with inspiring campaigns that spotlight Hawai‘i’s people, culture, and experiences unlike anywhere else in the world,” said Mufi Hannemann, HTA board chair. “We need to ensure that the Hawaiian Islands stay top-of-mind among travelers amidst the competitive global market, especially as we head into the summer and fall.”

The People. The Place. The Hawaiian Islands.

The People. The Place. The Hawaiian Islands.” uplifts Hawai‘i’s musicians, lei makers, chefs, farmers, culturalists, fashion designers, and others in their sectors that rely on a vibrant visitor industry. Some of the individuals who will be featured in the campaign in the coming months include Chef Kyle Kawakami of Maui Fresh Streatery; Meleana Estes, Creative Director and Author of Lei Aloha; and Kainani Kahaunaele, Musician and Educator, with others to follow.

“The People. The Place. The Hawaiian Islands.” is aimed at the Hawai‘i target traveler, defined as those who are eco-conscious, mindful of safety precautions, interested in learning about the culture of the places that they visit, and want to protect the Islands’ natural resources. The campaign will be deployed in the continental U.S. first through an integrated marketing effort leveraging earned, digital, social media, and travel trade education. While this campaign will have a heavier emphasis on supporting Maui, it will also build on each island brand and will be utilized by HTA’s global marketing teams in their respective markets and Hawai‘i partners worldwide.

“The People. The Place. The Hawaiian Islands.” will be live in-market mid-May.

In Japan, the “Beautiful Hawai‘i” and “Yappari Hawai‘i (“It’s Gotta be Hawai‘i”) campaigns are already underway with an integrated mix of digital and TV advertising, social media, earned media, partnerships and trade education to drive bookings.

“Beautiful Hawai‘i” shares the characteristics and key experiences within the Hawaiian Islands to inspire visitors from Japan to return, emphasizing the notion that “travel can make the world beautiful.”

“Yappari Hawai‘i (It’s Gotta be Hawai‘i)” has generated more than 61 million impressions to date, including on taxi and bus signage, social media, and digital banners on Yahoo! Japan and Google. In addition, HTJ garnered participation from 22 industry partners with special offers as a part of the campaign.

Yappari Hawai‘i | eTurboNews | eTN
Hawaii Tourism has $60 Million to Attract New Visitors, BUT...

“Redeveloping our higher-spending international markets, including Japan, is key to balancing our visitor mix throughout the state,” said Daniel Nāho‘opi‘i, HTA’s interim president and CEO. “The campaigns promote regenerative tourism by encouraging visitors to support our local businesses and enjoy a range of experiences that are accessible to them, while strengthening The Hawaiian Islands’ brand and travelers’ perceptions about Hawai‘i. These campaigns build upon the concept of educating visitors to mālama — care for Hawai‘i — which remains at the core of our efforts.”

According to industry-standard research by SMARInsights commissioned by HTA, every dollar spent on strategic, paid placement of campaigns in the U.S. and Japan in 2023 resulted in $399 of visitor spending and $31 of state tax collections.

Development and deployment of the new campaigns are under HTA’s management through its global marketing teams: Hawaiʻi Tourism United States and Hawaiʻi Tourism Japan.

The new campaigns mark the evolution in visitor education messaging focused on sharing the stories of Hawai‘i’s people, cultures and customs. In 2019, with “Hawai‘i Rooted,” HTA and its global marketing teams educated visitors prior to their arrival, while the “Kuleana” travel tips video series educated travelers on-island about how to visit safely and responsibly. In 2021, in the wake of the global pandemic, “Mālama Hawai‘i” was launched, inspiring visitors to take part in caring for the Islands and the community. 

Following the August 2023 wildfires on Maui, “Mālama Maui” encouraged travelers to return with respect and compassion. For tourism to best support the post-wildfire recovery, “Mākaukau Maui” was launched to support residents who were ready to return to work by assuring visitors that Maui is ready to welcome visitors.

About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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