Hawaiian Airlines says it has not seen fallout from concern in the United States the Trump presidency may harm tourism.
The airline, which is celebrating four years of flying between Auckland and Honolulu and on to the US mainland says it has not seen any fall in demand for Hawaii as a tourist destination.
Donald Trump’s rhetoric and unpopularity abroad is likely to reduce international arrivals by 4.3 million this year, according to market strategy firm Tourism Economics.
Roger Dow, chief executive of the US Travel Association, told Bloomberg that while there was no ”big damage yet,” what the organisation was getting was ”the noise level”.
During the administration of President Barack Obama, a Brand USA tourism campaign helped boost arrivals from 51 million in 2006 to nearly 78 million in 2015.
President and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines Mark Dunkerley said that the welcome mat was still out in the United States.
”Obviously there is a narrative out there that is being driven by big political events that makes that at first blush seem so but we’re not seeing any reduction in demand for a Hawaii vacation, certainly as a community we’re very welcoming there of overseas visitors.”
Hawaii’s tourism has boomed to around nine million a year.
”We depend on them ,” said Dunkerley.
”We do everything we can to promote how easy it is to travel to the United States. That is reality on the ground, notwithstanding the broader political narrative.”
Hawaiian flies three return flights a week between Honolulu and Auckland using an Airbus A330 aircraft.
While the airline wanted to increase frequency, demand wasn’t sufficient at the moment.
American Airlines’ direct services between Los Angeles and Auckland, United’s San Francisco services and Air New Zealand’s route to Houston had intensified competition.
”Right now the market conditions aren’t quite right. There’s been a lot of additional competition in the market.”
The strong United States dollar had not weakened demand among New Zealanders but had kept a lid on growth. Since 2013, Hawaiian has carried more than 120,000 passengers aboard over 500 flights from Auckland to Honolulu.
Last year the airline installed lie-flat seating into its premium cabin and increased the number of extra comfort seats to cater for leisure travellers who want more features when they travel.
Dunkerley said the premium seats had been designed for couples and families who wanted to ”share the experience” rather than traditional single business class passengers who wanted little to do with others in the cabin.
”This a more family friendly and couple friendly environment.”
Prior to Hawaiian’s launch fewer than 26,000 New Zealand travellers visited Hawaii in 2012, according to Hawaii Tourism Authority figures.
Following Hawaiian’s entry, visitor arrivals from Auckland nearly doubled to more than 50,000 in 2013 and topped 60,000 for the third straight year in 2016.
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