Hawaii’s pristine beaches and sun-drenched skies drew close to 200,000 Chinese visitors in 2018, but the escalating trade war and a weakening yuan are hampering Hawaii Tourism Authority’s best efforts with recent data showing a 25 percent drop across Q1 2019.
Once a rapidly-growing segment of Hawaii’s tourism industry, the setback is forcing businesses and cultural institutions to rethink their engagement with the island’s highest spending travelers ($365 per person per day). To its credit, Hawaii’s tourism industry has been proactive and in April attended a promotional event in Beijing to launch more than 300 new travel products for Chinese travelers. These included tailor-made vacation packages, self-driving holidays, and luxury holidays.
Hawaiian museum and cultural institutions are doing their part by catering to Chinese travelers through Mandarin audio tours and Chinese-language websites and engagement across Chinese social media.
Here are three strong examples;
The Battleship Missouri Memorial
From World War II through the Korean War and onto the Liberation of Kuwait, the Mighty Mo has more than 75 years of history to share with visitors. Its guided tours and online services (including a Chinese-language website) are proving popular with Chinese visitors. The battleship’s use of Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site comparable to Twitter, is particularity noteworthy with visitors able to access photos, videos, information, and speak with program directors through the platform. The Missouri also uses WeChat and allows visitors to learn about special promotions, purchase tickets, and make reservations on its website.
The Honolulu Museum of Art
The museum’s collection includes Hokusai, van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, Picasso, and Warhol as well as important works of Asian and Hawaiian art. This leading state cultural institution is also focused deepening its engagement with Chinese travelers and provides Chinese-language docent tours in Mandarin while also hosting exhibitions that appeal to Chinese — the most recent example is “Contemporary Landscapes: Li Huayi” which celebrates the innovative Chinese ink painter through 33 of his paintings.
Another popular tourist stop is the former royal residence of the rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Located in the Hawaii Capital Historic District, the Iolani Palace offers self-led audio tours in Mandarin and has also translated signage into Chinese. With the growing popularity of augmented reality and virtual reality (VR) within Chinese museum, the royal residence’s virtual tour is set to be popular and it allows visitors to roam through the building, climb the majestic koa staircase, and look closely at artifacts.