I’ve had a few posts about Hawaii’s tourism marketing lately – and I’m not finished. But I interrupt this broadcast to bring you the national results for 2011. The U.S. Department of Commerce has published its data for the entire country, which added up to 62 million international visitors last year. That’s 2.5 million better than we have done before, further cementing travel and tourism as one of the top export industries of the United States.
Our top markets for absolute numbers of inbound visitors, of course, are Canada and Mexico. Canadians flocked south in record numbers, growing 5% in a single year. Visitors from Mexico were flat. Does this reflect an appearance of a less friendly attitude on the part of the gringos at the border? I don’t know. Once you back Canada and Mexico out of the numbers, the United States attracted 27.9 million overseas visitors in 2011, up 6% from 2010.The gaudiest growth rates were from South America (up 16%), Oceania (14%) and eastern Europe (up 11%). They were followed by the Middle East (up 10%) and western Europe (up 5%). Those familiar with Hawaii’s marketing will notice that our tropical paradise ignores most of these growth markets. The state does no marketing at all in South America, eastern Europe and the Middle East – and virtually none in western Europe. The Hawaii Tourism Authority has hit the trifecta of missing out on what is working for the rest of the country. Most of the national increase in visitors from western Europe, by the way, came from Germany and France. HTA, of course, does no marketing in France. Only Oceania shows up as a positive for HTA in the real growth group. You get lucky sometimes.
Where do our friends from Asia enter into all this? Hardly at all. The growth markets from Asia are South Korea and China, so Hawaii did do something right. But visitors from Asia as a whole only grew by 3% last year, the slowest growth rate of any region in the world (even Africa was up 4%). Yet Hawaii continues to put its marketing eggs in baskets that aren’t growing very much. Go figure.