In an exclusive conversation with CTP’s executive editor, Bob Mowat, the president and CEO of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, John De Fries relates the destination’s COVID-19 story. While the pandemic had far-reaching effects on the industry, it also provided De Fries and the industry an opportunity to shift and reset the role of Hawai‘i tourism and put it on a path to effect positive change.
De Fries observed that: “Like everywhere else in the world, the global COVID-19 pandemic had far-reaching effects. Tourism, Hawai‘i’s number one industry, was brought to a standstill due to the pandemic, international travel restrictions and the State of Hawai‘i’s Safe Travels program, which included a mandatory self-quarantine order for travellers.”
He continued: “With the significantly reduced number of visitors in the Hawaiian Islands, during this time we also saw regenerative effects taking place in the environment. Marine wildlife returned to their homes and the forests re-flourished themselves.”
The HTA’s boss pointed out that: “Prior to the pandemic, the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA) was already reprioritizing its focus towards destination stewardship with the goal of becoming more of a destination management organization. This was based on our observations of the growing arrivals into the state and need to address the adverse impacts that was having in our communities.
Our 2020-2025 HTA Strategic Plan which was developed in 2019 and is currently being implemented focuses on four interacting pillars: Preservation of Natural Resources, Perpetuation of Hawaiian Culture, Community and Brand Marketing.”
He said that: “As we move forward, we are seeing the revival of domestic tourism, which has meant that thousands of residents are now able to get back to work because the hotels and resorts, restaurants, activities and attractions, retail outlets, food distributors, and the entire supply chain that supports the tourism industry are functioning again.”
Main Photo – Courtesy Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) – Ben Ono
Second Photo — Courtesy Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) – Kuni Nakai
Third Photo — John De Fries – Courtesy Hawaii Touirst Authority
Fourth Photo — Courtesy – Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) – Vincent Lim