HONOLULU – Hawaii is starting to market itself to travellers from Southeast Asia.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority this year hired a contractor to promote the state in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Together, the four countries have a population of 468 million people.
The push comes amid plans by Malaysia-based low-cost carrier AirAsia X to begin flying to Honolulu from Kuala Lumpur. The Hawaii Tourism Authority expects the route to launch during the first half of next year. No airline currently operates direct flights to Hawaii from Southeast Asia.
Hawaii Tourism Southeast Asia contractor Kelvin Ong told industry representatives at a meeting Tuesday the region offers huge opportunity for Hawaii’s tourism industry. He says the biggest challenge is that people there don’t know what Hawaii has to offer.
The four countries being targeted vary greatly. The city state of Singapore has just 5.5 million people but is among the world’s richest nations with a per capita gross domestic product topping $56,000, according to the World Bank. Indonesia is the world’s fourth-most populous nation with about 250 million people. Its per capita GDP is the lowest of the four countries at about $3,500.
Ong said his group plans to promote Hawaii as a “dream destination,” emphasizing hula and other aspect of the state’s rich culture. They also plan a campaign promoting Hawaii’s food offerings that it will build around a Malaysia gourmet festival.
Ong said Malaysian and Singaporean travellers to the U.S. spend a large chunk of their money on food. Eating makes up the second and third biggest items on their budgets, he said. They love to each local food while travelling, he said.
“We won’t go to McDonald’s. We want to try the local cuisine,” he said.