Hawaii Needs to Step Up if it Wants China Flights

The hype was big on paper.

Find out “how to attract more Chinese visitors to Hawaii.” Learn “how Hawaii can best prepare for the vast potential of Chinese travel to Hawaii.”

That’s what was promised in an event flier for a dinner presentation Monday evening sponsored by the state’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. The featured speakers were Luo Baoming, the governor of Hainan province, a tropical island off China’s southern coast, and Chen Feng, chairman of Hainan Airlines, China’s largest privately owned airline.

With nearly 200 people in attendance, the hype seemed to have worked in attracting people willing to pay $35 for a family-style Chinese dinner at the Lau Yee Chai restaurant in the Waikiki Shopping Plaza.

But very little, if any, specifics were shared on how Hawaii can tap into the growing Chinese visitor market — a lucrative visitor pool the state has yet to cultivate. Instead, the conversation focused mostly on Hainan Airlines’ stalled plans to launch weekly Honolulu-to-Beijing routes this year.

If anything, it seemed like the visitors were more interested in what they could learn from Hawaii.

“I want to learn from Hawaii how to build Hainan into a real tourist destination especially in the areas of education and theme park projects,” Baoming's translator conveyed. “Hainan is trying to build up tourism as the dominant industry.”

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