88% of visitors rated Hawaii as “excellent.” Surprising data.

88% of visitors rated Hawaii as

The latest research from the State of Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) and HTA is out, and the results may surprise you. Especially after more than 300 heated comments this weekend about how the state wants visitors to experience Hawaii, including that the state “does not encourage visiting:” Waikiki, Diamond Head, Volcanoes, Poipu, Etc.

Visitors who rated their most recent trip to Hawaii as “excellent” included 88% of visitors in the western United States, 89% of visitors in the eastern United States, and 80% of visitors in Canada. With any study, you need to look at how it was conducted and whether the researchers had any bias in the results.

According to the HTA, “Monthly samples of visitors who stayed at least two days were drawn from the completed domestic air travel database (visitor forms completed). Selected US visitors were sent an email invitation with a link to complete the survey at Surveys were also conducted by trained interviewers with departing visitors from Korea at Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye Airport.

The study, shown below, came from DBEDT and HTA and was conducted by Anthology Marketing, which is closely aligned with HTA. In 165 pages of long data stream you can read for yourself (below), the state ranked visitor satisfaction among thousands of visitors to the east and west coasts of Hawaii at the end of 2022.

HTA CEO John De Fries was ecstatic about the study:

Visitors’ expressed interest in returning to Hawaii speaks to the quality experience provided by our industry and community partners and individuals who engage with travelers across the state. We continue to educate visitors on how to travel mindfully, including ways they can support local businesses, preserve the islands’ natural and cultural resources, and create meaningful connections.”

Longtime Hawaii HTA partner Anthology Marketing Group conducted the study for the state.

The survey, carried out by long-term partner Anthology, confirmed HTA’s claim that they are doing a good job. And it comes as the state legislature is actively looking to dismantle the HTA entirely or otherwise reduce its powers. The juxtaposition of this survey and where HTA stands today seems strange to us.

Anthology has been awarded various contracts by the HTA over the years, with those we are aware of including “HTA Website Support Services” and “Public Relations, Communications and Outreach Services.” That, in addition to visitor surveys. It made us wonder why a more independent, less affiliated company wasn’t hired given the close relationship between Anthology and the troubled HTA, as well as the timing of the legislature’s intense scrutiny.

The results were from October to December 2022 and included 4,845 visitors from the US West and East, Canada, Japan, Oceania, Korea and China.

Are visitors planning to return to Hawaii? Mostly yes.

The survey indicated that most visitors plan to return to Hawaii, with 60% saying it was very likely. Visitors on the US West Coast had the highest (81%) likelihood of returning scores, far better than the 65% score for visitors on the US East Coast.

Hawaii has generally had a very high rate of return visitors for decades. So it was no surprise that repeat visitors were more likely to return than first-time visitors.

In HTA’s words, “visitor satisfaction is a key indicator of the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s strategic plan.”

Are there curtains for HTA? Maybe.

The Hawaii legislature hopes to reign in or eliminate the 25-year-old HTA, with some saying it is irrelevant and others saying it has accomplished what it set out to do, which was promote Hawaii. We will follow how the related measures progress through the legislature.

HTA also suffers from great internal dissonance and continues to see staff and managers routinely leave with positions unfilled. The last high-ranking executive to leave was the person responsible for managing the hotly contested US marketing contracts.

Did Hawaii Exceed Visitor Expectations? Mostly not.

Only 43% of all major visitors to the US West Coast felt this way about their vacation. 51% of Eastern visitors, 44% of Canadian visitors and 32% of Oceania visitors felt Hawaii exceeded expectations.

Would visitors recommend Hawaii to others? Mostly yes.

89% of visitors in the US West and East, 87% of visitors in Canada and 79% of visitors in Oceania said they would recommend vacations to Hawaii.

How would you have answered?


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