Conventions in Hawaiʻi

Jun 30, 2017

Credit Wikimedia Commons

A small, but growing, portion of the visitor industry caters to groups with business purpose. The Hawaii Tourism Authority would like to see more of that.  PBN editor-in-chief A. Kam Napier has more.

Last year, nearly half a million people visited Hawaii in what is called the Meetings, Conventions and Incentives market, or MCI. Meetings and conventions are self-explanatory. Incentive trips, if you’ve ever worked in a sales-driven business, reward high performers with a mix of fun and inspirational meetings in a far-off destination.

Those half-million or so MCI visitors make up just under 6 percent of all visitors to Hawaii, but punch above their weight accounting for just over a billion dollars in spending, or about 7 percent of all visitor spending.

The market also provides stability — big conventions are booked years in advance and net thousands of visitors out of single conference. For example, 2,000 people are expected to attend a conference in 2020 held by The Aquaculture America, potentially generating over $9 million in spending.

The MCI market is so important that last year, the Hawaii Tourism Authority created a 20-person team called Meet Hawaii to specialize in it. Hawaii is fairly new to formalizing its MCI marketing, since the leisure market is so strong. The Islands are up against mature convention markets such as Chicago, Atlanta and Orlando, where hotel rates about half that of Hawaii’s. Part of the challenge is arranging the necessary partners to make sure that hotel rooms, meeting facilities, flights and activities can be coordinated simultaneously. Imagine arranging a trip to Hawaii for 2,000 of your closest friends and complexity is obvious.