`Ano`ai kakou… I would like to thank the Trustees who voted to support OHA’s partnership with the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) to participate in the 2014 ITB Berlin Travel Trade Show.
Each March, AIANTA travels to ITB Berlin, the world’s leading travel trade show with more than 170,000 visitors, including 110,000 trade visitors and over 10,086 exhibitors from 180 countries. The event attracts hundreds of international travel agents. For the first time, Native Hawaiians were represented at this very prestigious event.
The purpose for this trip was to give an opportunity to our Native Hawaiian businesses, which have not been able to reach international travel markets, to promote their businesses. After distributing hundreds of Native Hawaiian business brochures from all of the islands to international travel agents, I am positive that we made a significant impact. The European market was very receptive.
For many, many years, Hawaiians have wanted to see our local tourism industry focus on authentic Native Hawaiian experiences, but this has not occurred. I believe that OHA can assist our Native Hawaiian businesses by helping them reach international markets that they previously could not afford to reach on their own. Travelling to ITB Berlin allows OHA to further develop a potentially lucrative market for our people and improve their economic self-sufficiency.
If we don’t tell our story, who will?
After speaking first hand with ITB Berlin attendees, I discovered an untapped market of wealthy European travelers eager for authentic cultural and historical travel experiences. These travelers were hungry for experiences that someone on a tour would never be able to experience. These travelers want to stay at a location far longer than the average stay. They want to stay for weeks and immerse themselves in a new culture so that they can make their long distance travel more worthwhile. OHA is in a perfect position to use its expertise in Native Hawaiian culture and history to develop strategies to assist our beneficiaries to tap this potentially lucrative international niche market.
I also made personal connections with nearly 50 travel agents and forwarded their contact information to the appropriate staff members within OHA, including Waimea Valley, which OHA manages through the Hi’ipaka LLC.
I believe OHA can increase its presence at next year’s ITB Berlin Trade Show by sponsoring our own booth within the Native American and Alaska Natives’ section. By focusing on our unique culture and history, we can bring about a stronger, more authentic Native Hawaiian identity in the minds of travelers around the world.
I heard over and over again from everyone I spoke to at the trade show that they did not want to travel like a tourist in “Waikiki” watching “dancing hula girls.” They wanted to see authentic Native cultural and historical sites and have a unique Native Hawaiian experience. They pointed out the harsh truth that if they wanted to experience warm, tropical weather, they could just go to Mexico or Florida.
Finally, I would like to thank the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) for inviting OHA to participate in the ITB Berlin Travel Trade Show.