HONOLULU - Hawaii's new marketing representative in China is asking the state's travel industry to do more to accommodate travelers from China, a country the Hawaii Tourism Authority has identified as a major growth market.
Brenda He, the director and general manager of Travel Link Marketing, said hotels need to support Chinese tour operators and provide some rooms at special fares.
Companies should have a Chinese sales team because Chinese tour operators don't do business the same way as Japanese tour operators, she said.
"We need to build the new product together," He told a tourism conference on Friday.
The tourism authority, the state agency responsible for marketing Hawaii as a destination, recently hired Travel Link Marketing to promote Hawaii tourism in China.
He says her target is to bring more than 180,000 Chinese travelers to Hawaii next year. That's about 30 percent more the 140,000 expected to arrive this year.
Overall, the tourism authority anticipates that 8.75 million visitors will likely travel to Hawaii in 2014, about 3.2 percent more than this year.
The tourism authority views China as a major growth market. The number of visitors has been rapidly increasing as the country becomes wealthier and more Chinese venture abroad. Chinese travelers still need to obtain a visa in advance to visit the U.S., however, unlike travelers from South Korea or Japan.
He said 83 million Chinese traveled overseas in 2012, but President Xi Jinping has predicted that number will climb to 400 million in 2017.
Most - about 90 percent - will travel to neighboring countries in Asia, He said.
By 2020, there will likely be about 220 million Chinese with enough money to afford a trip to Hawaii, she said.
Currently, most Chinese visitors to Hawaii are what she called inexperienced travelers who are trying to see as many cities and attractions as possible. They tend to have a packed travel schedule from morning until night, sit on tour buses, eat at Chinese buffets, stay in cheap hotels and shop, she said.
They often stop in Hawaii for two nights as part of a two-week tour of the U.S.
But she says many Chinese, particularly those who have gone abroad before, are increasingly traveling overseas with family and friends in small groups.
She says they are looking for experiences while they travel and aren't trying to maximize the number of cities and attractions they see.
In major cities like Beijing and Shanghai, Travel Link Marketing plans to target people who have visited the U.S. before. It will promote Hawaii as beautiful islands offering unique experiences.
In secondary Chinese cities, Travel Link Marketing will make sure Hawaii is included in the itineraries of cross-country U.S. tours. It will also push to raise awareness of Hawaii as an island chain with its own unique culture, she said.