At the start of 2020, those in the tourism industry felt invincible. Worldwide travel had shown growth for the past 10 years and was expected to increase another 4 percent in 2020. There seemed to be enough tourist for everyone, and destinations worried little about maintaining a competitive advantage. However, the global pandemic shut the tap to the endless flow of visitors. Here in Hawai‘i, as with many destinations we now wait for interest in travel to return. However, we also have been given a bit of time to take stock and reset.
We know that as tourism recovers, over the next few years, there will be high competition by destinations for the limited number of travelers. We also are now aware that destinations need to address competitive advantages that could weather future shocks. So before stimulating demand to get out of this crisis, destinations must work to strengthen and develop a range of destination attributes.
I am currently working with the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority and other local organizations in a community lead process to rebuild and enhance the destination to be competitive once the travel situation improves. With limits to resources, not only do will we need to listen to communities and their desires but also pay attention to attributes that would have the greatest impact.
I found this paper, Destination Competitiveness: An Analysis of Determinant Attributes, Geoffrey I. Crouch, to be an excellent resource to take stock of critical destination attributes while conducting our planning process. The author makes us aware of 10 determinate attributes that were identified in the study. He makes us think beyond the naturally endowed components of climate and geography and our reliance on branding and positioning activities to capture the interests of visitors.
We have the time now to address the more difficult areas to improve such as world class infrastructure and accessibility. Success will also be dependent on how well Hawai‘i “creates and deploys resources such as culture and history, the quality of its tourism superstructure, the creation and hosting of special events, a thriving entertainment sector, and the development of a broad mix of recreation and tourism activities.”
Submitted by: Daniel Nahoopii SMS Research
Editor Note: The study the author is reflecting upon is available free to the public until September 2021 as a part of the Tribute to TTRA’s 50th anniversary from the Journal of Travel Research.