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Hawaii Tourism Authority going digital to promote state


    Hawaii welcomed 8.6 million travelers last year.

The state agency promoting Hawaii is increasingly going digital, using social media and virtual reality to reach potential visitors.

“It is the way that people are communicating and interacting — from my 82-year-old mother on Facebook to my kids on Snapchat or whatever they’re doing,” said Leslie Dance, director for marketing and product development for the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Dance told industry representatives at a tourism marketing meeting in Waikiki on Wednesday the agency plans to unveil its first virtual reality offering at its September tourism conference.

The agency plans to take advantage of technology of the likes offered by Occulus Rift, a virtual reality startup that uses a headset to immerse people in different places.

One idea Dance has is to give people the feeling that they are parasailing over the Hawaiian Islands and allow them to pilot themselves down to the island of their choosing. She said the technology is becoming more affordable and accessible, with the introduction of cardboard glasses and other cheaper features.

Dance, who assumed her current role in January, has a background working for technology companies. Most recently, she was vice president of marketing for SMART Technologies, a Canadian company that produces interactive whiteboards and panels.

The digital world allows you to reach more people without spending as much money on television and magazine campaigns, which is helpful on a limited budget, she said. Plus, you can quickly try new things as experiments fail and shift course, she said.

The agency plans to update its website to make it easier for mobile phone users to navigate and is introducing a new mobile app.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority hopes to maintain the momentum that brought a record number of travelers to the islands for each of the past four years. Hawaii welcomed 8.6 million travelers last year.

In South Korea, the agency is encouraging social media users to post photos and video of their adventures in Hawaii with the hashtag phrase #AlohaEverywhere. It’s similar to an ongoing campaign in the U.S. to do the same with #LetHawaiiHappen.

Hawaii Tourism Europe has developed an online game for people to play for the chance to win a vacation in Hawaii. The game also teaches players about each of the Hawaiian Islands.

Andrew Koh, who leads marketing efforts in Taiwan, said social media is one of the best ways to reach consumers. He said 75 percent of Taiwan residents have a Facebook account.

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