Travel Weekly was lucky enough to spend the past week getting well acquainted with the beautiful US island state of Hawaii, thanks to Hawai‘i Tourism Oceania (HTO).
The main drawcard was, of course, the 2018 Global Tourism Summit, which took place this week at the Hawaii Convention Centre in Honolulu, and was presented by the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
However, HTO and Hawaiian Airlines also treated a 31-strong delegation of travel industry folk (the largest-ever group hosted by the organisation) to an amazing pre-famil on the island of Hawaii, proving that travel to the island is completely safe for visitors despite recent volcanic activity.
Kicking off in Hilo, delegates took to the sky to get a bird’s eye view of the volcano fields, courtesy of Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. The helicopter tour is the best way to see lava at the moment, as well as the newly-formed black sand beach.
The first day was complemented by a delicious dinner at the Hilo Bay Café – a short walk from the accommodation at the Grand Naniloa Hotel.
The next day featured a custom tour of the island by the friendly and informative crew at Kapohokine Adventures, which included a visit to McKenzie State Park (which, along with Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, has safely reopened following months of eruptions) and a yummy barbeque lunch at an historic church site.
The delegation then made its way across to the other side of the island for a one-night stay at Hilton Waikoloa Village (which is literally a village, complete with its own monorail and gondola) and dinner (inclusive of a gorgeous seaside sunset) at Lava Lava Beach Club.
An afternoon with the Kings
It was then time to make tracks to Oahu via Hawaiian Airlines for an entertaining spectacle with a slight Aussie flavour.
The Sydney Kings, who play in Australia’s National Basketball League, faced off against the LA Clippers in an exhibition game at the University of Hawaii – one of the many sporting events hosted in the US island state.
Hawaii is a premier sporting destination, with each of the islands enabling both participation and spectating opportunities across many sports. These include ironman races, marathons, outrigger canoe racing, paddleboard racing, and world championship golfing and surfing events.
Following the game, delegates made their way to the recently-renovated Queen Kapi‘olani Hotel for a welcome function, where they gorged on some of Hawaii’s freshest seafood, tastiest cheeses and sweetest treats.
Travel Weekly sat down with two of HTO’s delegates, HelloWorld’s Mark Brooker and The Walshe Group’s Jacqui Walshe, to find out what they thought of the pre-famil:
How did you rate the famil to the island of Hawaii?
MB: I think they are a great sampler for us to see a snapshot of the neighbour islands, given us a better understanding of the potential they have for our clients. It was great to see some familiar faces and welcome new ones into the group on the famil. It was a good bunch of people all with a common interest in travel.
JW: It was an excellent famil. It provided an opportunity for our trade partners, particularly the product managers and marketing experts from those partners, to visit a neighbour island and realise the variety of special experiences available to visitors; experiences that are very different from the Waikiki and Oahu experience. The famil demonstrated why it is so worth visiting at least one other island during a Hawaiian stay.
What was your favourite part of the famil?
JW: Definitely the volcano sighting. This is my favourite island – I came to it on my honeymoon, have brought my kids here and have visited many times, always going to view the volcano. The change to the crater and to the island since the latest eruption have been remarkable. What a rare opportunity for people to view a live and active volcano safely and in such an attractive and friendly place!
MB: The helicopter ride over the active volcano on the big island was awesome and being a basketball fan and former player, the Sydney Kings v LA Clippers basketball game was right up my alley.
What part of the famil surprised you?
MB: That the island of Hawaii is still growing and to see the newly-formed parts of the coastline, including the black sand beach, after the most recent eruption of the volcano.
JW: The surprise was the degree of change to the crater itself and just how normal island life felt around it – so quickly back to everyday living and the same welcome for visitors.
The summit, summed up
The Global Tourism Summit drew hundreds of people from across the travel industry to Honolulu, where sustainability and technology proved the two hottest topics.
Tourism New Zealand CEO Stephen-Hall kicked off the keynote sessions with a proactive talk, calling on the industry to be more collaborative and to focus on creating authentic, enriching and purpose-driven experiences for travellers. You can read all about it here.
Summit attendees were introduced to the future of technology – Sophia the robot – during a very entertaining luncheon, before Google’s travel chief, Susie Vowinkel, delivered a timely keynote (which you can read about here) on winning in the “Age of Assistance”.
— Hawaii Tourism (HTA) (@HawaiiHTA) October 1, 2018
The summit also acted as an opportunity for different countries and regions to outline their marketing strategies for getting more tourists to Hawaii, with HTO country managers Giselle Radulovic and Darrah Walshe doing a great job of communicating this to attendees.
Here are some key facts from their presentation:
- The average length of stay for Australians and New Zealanders to Hawaii is 9.67 and 9.31 days respectively.
- In 2017, Hawaii received 324,079 visitors from Australia and 68,481 visitors from New Zealand.
- The average age of visitors to Hawaii from Australia and New Zealand is 45 years old.
- The four main factors influencing visitation to Hawaii are rest and relaxation, shopping, food and the beach.
Travel Weekly caught up with Radulovic during the summit to chat about the challenges and opportunities for HTO, as well as the vital role agents play in the organisation’s strategy. You can read up on it here.
HTO delegates were also treated to a number of other activities during the summit, including a food and drink festival-themed networking reception, functions at Outrigger Waikiki Beach and The Ritz-Carlton Residences, and a hosted breakfast with Aqua-Aston.
A big mahalo to HTO and its partners for putting on such a fantastic trip, as well as all the delegates who made Travel Weekly’s roving reporter feel part of the famil family.