Prepare Your Hawaii Tourism Business for the post-COVID World

Where We Are Now – September 2020

Of all the businesses that have been hit hard in Hawaii during the COVID pandemic, tourism businesses have suffered the most. The reason is simple: the State of Hawaii has imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine on anybody coming into Hawaii. This has effectively killed any tourism to Hawaii: our visitor arrivals were down 98% in July compared to the previous year. 

That’s the bad news, the really bad news. That said, we know that someday, hopefully, sooner than later, the 2020 COVID pandemic will be behind us, and tourism will resume. When? I have no idea, but the prognosticators seem to be indicating that we’ll be welcoming visitors sometime in early 2021.

When tourism restarts, we all know it will not be at 2019 levels–a time when hotels saw 80%+ occupancy and most tourist activities were seeing robust profits.

The Inevitables

  1. We’ll start seeing tourists return very gradually
  2. It may take years until we see 2019 levels of spending
  3. Many in the tourism sector will have closed for good long before tourism resumes.
  4. The competition for tourists’ dollars will be fierce

So, assuming the above is true, how can a tourism business in Hawaii be best situated to profit when visitors return? What can you do today to make that a reality?

What Can You Do?

Review Your Offerings

  1. Review everything you offer and focus on the moneymakers. For example, if your “Island Aloha” tour was only running at 25% capacity–break even–then you can imagine that it will be a money loser when fewer tourists are on the island. Cut your options to optimize revenue per tour.
  2. Focus some new offerings on limited-budget tourists. We’re likely to see tourists with less money in the future due to the effect of COVID on the economy and heavily discounted airfares and hotels, so have some things that will appeal to more value-priced tourists.
  3. Consider bold price cuts. I know it’s always a bad idea to be busy and broke, but you can also stabilize your business if you can add volume. Ten percent of something is better than 100% of nothing.

Focus on Your Website, Print Collateral, and Online Marketing

  1. Review your website from above. Does it present who you are and what you want to be clearly and concisely? Does it give an excellent image to those who may use your product or services?
  2. Review your website from the ground up. Look at every word, picture, and graphic. Are there typos or things that might be confusing or incorrect?  
  3. Review your website from an online marketing perspective. You’ll need some software tools to do this, but you’ll want to make sure your website is visible online for your core products and services. If you can find yourself on the first page of Google, you’re probably doing OK. Get help from a company like Kona Impact for this.
  4. Be prepared to launch some paid advertising online. Look at Facebook ads, Microsoft Advertising, and Google Ads first. Again, hiring professionals can save you a lot of time, stress, and money.
  5. Review every brochure and rack card. Do they present you in the best light?

Work Your Data

  1. If you have–you should–a good database of past customers, reach out through email with special offers. If you have on-island customers, do everything possible to have them re-engage with your products or services.
  2. Start connecting to industry insiders – tour desks, taxi drivers, rideshare drivers, and any other business or person that can provide referrals.
  3. Prospect for new influencers. Visit complementary businesses, develop a good mailing list, and ask for referrals.

At Kona Impact, we’re starting to see several businesses in the tourism sector making concrete plans for reopening things. These businesses are leaving no stone unturned, and everything is on the table.