Message From Mufi Hannemann

President & CEO of Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association

Mufi Hannemann

With all signs pointing to a steady improvement in our visitor industry, this bit of breathing room will give us time to plan for the journey ahead.

We’ll be taking a path similar to one we’ve traveled before, but this one will also require study and trial before it can be successfully navigated. I speak, of course, of international tourism. It took many years for us to succeed in the Japanese market, requiring continual testing and refinement before we could depend on a significant inflow of visitors. This time it involves travelers from China, Korea, Taiwan and other countries.

These new markets will require that the visitor industry prepare our workers to accommodate new visitors, who speak different languages and have different customs and expectations. It will require education on the part of our residents, as well as education on the part of the travelers, as to what to expect from increased interaction. We’ll have to step up our efforts to ease our nation’s cumbersome visa process, which I’ve long pointed to as a hindrance to more travel from overseas. We’ll have to develop new marketing and promotion strategies to compete against other destinations.

Hawai‘i’s visitor industry is already hard at work in preparing ourselves. Hotels are training their employees, the Hawaii Tourism Authority has developed new marketing programs, the Legislature has proposed adding $2 million for overseas marketing, and we continue to develop new attractions to preserve our standing as a unique and welcoming place to visit and do business. We also have to continue our efforts to ensure public safety and improve our infrastructure, from roads and sewers to hotels, to maintain our competitiveness.

While new markets won’t succeed overnight, I’m confident that the efforts we’re now making will reward us with a healthy visitor industry and strong economy in the years ahead.