Hawaii welcomes East and West at global event
(Pictured above: Amanda Edwards, digital sales director for FlightNetwork.com (l), met with the HTA (Hawaii Tourism Authority) Canada team during the recent Global Tourism Summit in Honolulu. Next to Edwards were (l–r) Susan Webb, president of VoX International (HTA account holders); Lea-Ann Goltz, the HTA Western Canada account manager; and Colin Wood, VoX account director.)
Like the Hawaiian voyaging canoe that has circled the earth, the recent Global Tourism Summit in Hawaii brought a similar planetary outlook to the main stage of the Hawaii Convention Center. For the first time, the agenda of the Hawaii tourism conference was expanded to a more international audience than in past years.
“We are evolving this annual gathering from a conference in which we talk at you… to an international Summit in which we talk with you,” said George Szigeti, CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
Geographically, Hawaii is ideally positioned roughly halfway between Asia and the Americas. “A world-class tourism Summit, where East meets West, will foster new friendships, establish new partnerships and build relationships between local businesses and our global tourism partners,” said Szigeti.
With a leadership position as advocates and generators of cultural tourism, it made sense that the theme of the conference was sustainability. And who better to help express this theme than the crew of the Hōkūle’a, whose mission has been to act as “ambassadors of sustainability” on their global journey.
The voyaging canoe sailed around the world using just the stars, winds and the sea to guide them – the methods of Polynesian wayfinding. “At night under the stars, it was like sailing in space,” said one crew member during a presentation at the Summit.
The Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage took place in stages over three years, with crew changes ongoing over 37 months and 42,000 miles. “Protecting the oceans is our number one task,” said a crew member. “The Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage is the greatest achievement in modern Hawaiian history,” said Szigeti.
Billy Beane goes green
So where did Billy Beane – he of baseball management fame and celebrity – fit into this cultural agenda? His keynote message was a bit veiled beneath the sports jargon and entertaining anecdotes, but Beane nonetheless had instructive advice for delegates that fit the green theme.
Beane’s management career is based on the application of player statistics – the key to his success in professional baseball – and he encouraged delegates at the summit in Hawaii to use stats as part of their business strategies.
That’s how guest speaker Carlos Rodriguez saw it. Rodriguez, the senior policy advisor for Conservation International, specializes in tracking the progress of the climate change and its impact on the planet – including the global tourism industry. The very future of global tourism requires close attention to global warming stats, he said.
“We have to use big data analysis to quantify the negative impacts of climate change. And then use this information to persuade companies and governments to change their policies,” said Rodriguez.
Canada on a comeback
Hawaii’s international inbound markets got the spotlight on the opening day of the Summit, with Canada as the biggest international source market after Japan. Susan Webb, president of VoX International, brought news that arrivals to Aloha state from Canada were up 6.6% in 2017 to date over 2016, and that spending was up 8.7% in the same period. This signalled a rebound from flatter inbound numbers in the past two years, as Canadians watched their dollars diminish in value against the US currency.
“The trends are back on target,” said Webb. For example, there has been no decline in the number of Canadians travelling to the US regardless of currency disadvantages, as a pent up demand for travel becomes more apparent.
The 2018 Global Tourism Summit is scheduled for Sept. 17-19 next year.