Public Relations

Hawai‘i Tourism Authority: Destination Management

Since 2007, the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA), the State of Hawai‘i agency responsible for strategically managing the state’s tourism industry, has conducted Resident Sentiment Surveys (RSS) in the spring and fall of each year measuring community feelings toward tourism and its perceived impacts on quality of life. HTA is responsible for representing the Hawaiian Islands globally and for holistically managing tourism in a sustainable manner consistent with community desires, economic goals, cultural values, preservation of natural resources and visitor industry needs.

When HTA adopted its 2020-2025 Strategic Plan in 2019, it prioritized destination management over destination marketing acknowledging a shift was needed if Hawai‘i was to achieve a sustainable tourism model for its future. The motivation for this shift was Hawai‘i’s record 10.5 million visitor arrivals in 2019 following six consecutive years of year-over-year growth in arrivals. Resident sentiment dropped to an all-time low that year as well, with two of three (67%) feeling “the state was being run for tourists at the expense of residents.”

Drastic measures were needed immediately if Hawai‘i residents and the critically important visitor industry — which contributes $18 billion annually to the economy — expected to coexist and work together toward a regenerative tourism model giving back to the state and its people more than it takes.

In October 2020, HTA sought input from communities statewide on how the state and counties could reset tourism through destination management focused on prioritizing community, cultural and environmental needs. In partnership with the counties of Kaua‘i, Honolulu, Maui and Hawai‘i Island, and their respective visitors bureaus, resident-led steering committees representing their communities, the visitor industry, various business sectors, and nonprofit organizations were involved in critical discussions and became key stakeholders in identifying challenges and opportunities.

The Challenge

The result was HTA’s 2021 creation of Destination Management Action Plans (DMAP) for each county implementing their individual tourism plans and policies, and other relevant plans, as foundation. HTA continues to implement these plans with a goal of balancing the economic benefits of tourism with impacts on natural and cultural resources and resident services and quality of life. Anthology’s challenge was and continues to be helping HTA keep the public and media informed on progress and successes of the DMAP programs in their communities.

The Solution

In 2022, Anthology worked with HTA to strengthen its communications and community outreach efforts, ensuring media and residents received regular updates on its destination stewardship progress. Anthology helped HTA, Hawai‘i Tourism United States, and its Island Visitors Bureaus execute a comprehensive destination stewardship communications plan. The goal was to realize an increase in positive resident sentiment toward tourism in the fall 2022 RSS by continuing to educate media and Hawai‘i residents about positive progress made by DMAPs. Core elements of our communications program included:

  • DMAP Phase 1 Progress Reports. Anthology produced island specific DMAP reports highlighting progress made during DMAP’s first year of implementation. The reports featured easily digestible statistics, infographics, and program information, all available to the community for download from the HTA website.
  • Community Meetings and Presentations. Destination managers for each island gave DMAP presentations to statewide Rotary and Lions clubs — organizations with strong focuses on community strengthening volunteer services and members representing diverse economic sectors. HTA hosted statewide community meetings to engage with residents.
  • Quarterly DMAP E-Blasts. Anthology distributed a quarterly e-newsletter to 20,000-plus industry stakeholders statewide sharing key DMAP actions in each county.
  • Organic and Paid Social Media. We developed an organic paid social media strategy — primarily implementing Facebook and Instagram — to deliver important messaging of DMAP efforts to residents year-round.
  • Earned Media. We issued news releases offering timely updates on DMAP progress statewide and targeted pitches year-round to key local and national media outlets and contacts.
  • Paid Media. Anthology assisted in coordinating partnerships and developing spokesperson messaging for several paid media opportunities aimed at sustaining HTA’s destination stewardship/DMAP messaging in the community. These partnerships included advertorial Hawai‘i broadcast television and print publication opportunities.

Featured articles in The New York Times (left) and Honolulu Star-Advertiser (right).

On February 28, 2023, HTA and the Hawaiʻi State Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) issued a news release headlined “Resident Sentiment Toward Tourism Recovering After Prolonged Downturn” reporting positive results from the fall 2022 RSS. The survey reported an uptick in Hawai‘i residents feeling more effort was being made to balance the economic benefits of tourism and quality of life for them, with 44 percent agreeing tourism was being better managed on their island and 67 percent reporting tax dollars should be spent to manage tourism’s impacts in their community. The survey also showed that residents who were aware of HTA’s Destination Management Action Plans and the organization’s efforts to better manage tourism had a more favorable view of tourism. All of these were results Anthology sought to achieve for HTA.

Anthology’s work with HTA to educate the public about the collective destination management efforts underway is ongoing and continues to move in a positive direction.