Tourism remains one of the top industries in Hawaii. Studies released in 2006 by the National Tourism Association (NTA) and in 2007 by Community Marketing, Inc. (CMI) indicate the Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, and Transgender (GLBT) population takes two to three times as many vacation trips as other segments of the population.
The annual economic impact of GLBT travelers as identified by the US Department of Commerce in 2006 was approximately US$64.5 billion in the USA alone. 84.8% of gay males and 83.6% of lesbian consumers traveled in the last year and spent US$500 or more according to CMI, and yet the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) has no marketing efforts targeting this important market.
Juergen Steinmetz, president of the private Hawaii Tourism Association (HiTA) has been pushing HTA for 3 years to look at the GLBT market. Steinmetz voiced his disappointment about Hawaii abandoning this opportunity. A dedicated website for GLBT travel to Hawaii was introduced by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Center several years ago and quietly disappeared.
Gay venues in Hawaii are not expanding, but shrinking. No location in Hawaii is currently identified within the top 15 as a “most-visited US destination location in GLBT travel research studies.” According to HiTA, this organization has been receiving requests from around the globe, specifically from the European Union countries and Australia to address this market. HiTA”s president Juergen T. Steinmetz has been vocal for years to look also at alternate international source markets and to focus more activities on growing and more visible markets, like the Gay and Lesbian traveler.
The GLBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii has now picked up on this important opportunity for the Hawaii economy. A resolution was submitted to the Oahu County Convention of the Democratic party and will be decided on during their convention on May 6-7.
The resolution argues that in April 2007, government authorities in over 75 destinations targeted the GLBT traveler with their marketing efforts, but search in 2008 of gohawaii.com, the official Hawaii Tourism web portal, produced one reference to a bed and breakfast. The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau website, hvcb.com, produced no reference at all, and oahu.com (the official tourism site for the island of Oahu and home of Waikiki) produced a reference to a restaurant and a broken link to a bed and breakfast.
It comes as no surprise that according to Pacific Business News, the number of GLBT tourists is declining. Research indicates that selection of vacation destinations by the GLBT communities is motivated by recommendations, unique attractions, and a reputation for GLBT friendliness, and that the availability of online information is highly important when getting the necessary information to this market.
The Hawaii Tourism Association (HITA) owns a website, gohawaiigay.com, agaytourist.net, and a twitter account, gaytourism, but has no funding to develop this. According to Steinmetz the Hawaii Tourism Authorities never responded to messages to work with HiTA in developing such an information tool.
The Democratic Party of Hawaii is now demanding in their resolution to request the City and County of Honolulu, and the State of Hawaii, develop and implement GLBT-focused marketing to include online electronic information with links to resources valuable to the GLBT communities, and print, radio, and TV marketing in media focusing on the GLBT individuals. Such focused marketing should receive a significant, specifically identified segment of the marketing budgets of the tourism and visitors authorities of the City and County of Honolulu and the State of Hawaii.
The GLBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii requests in their resolution that copies of the resolution should be given to all candidates for office identifying as Democrats, the Democratic members of the Legislature, the Mayor and Councilmembers of the City and County of Honolulu, the Oahu Visitors Bureau, the Hawaii Tourism Authority, and the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism.