WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - The sight of Korean dancers playing Taiko drums was a dead giveaway and the intro to Hawaiian Airlines announcement.
"Today we're announcing new, non-stop service between Honolulu and Seoul-Incheon in South Korea," Hawaiian's President and CEO Mark Dunkerley said.
Starting in January, 2011, Hawaiian will fly 767s to and from Seoul four times a week.
"Korea is a rapidly expanding economy. The airport in Incheon is the best infrastructure in that part of the world," he said.
Hawaiian said the route will add more than 54,000 air seats annually between Honolulu and Seoul.
A visa waiver program has made it easier for Koreans to travel to the U.S.
Tourism leaders said Hawaiian's flights could open other doors.
"This new flight to Incheon in Korea will help Hawaii have access to Asia, not just Korea but the northern part of Japan and to China. So it will bring Asians to Hawaii and Hawaii to Asia," Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) President Mike McCartney said.
HTA numbers show a Korean traveler spends almost $240 a day in Hawaii.
Billabong in Waikiki foresees more sales to Koreans once Hawaiian's flights take off.
"Maybe we'll have to learn some new Korean words - some basic hello, thank you and goodbye. That would probably help," manager Paul Yushin said.
Hawaiian's also expanding a codesharing agreement with Korean Air that allows customers of Hawaiian to book flights between Honolulu and Bangkok, Thailand.
"They'll be great connecting opportunities," Dunkerley said. "We have a relationship with Korean Airlines that means a great deal to us. So for all of these reasons, this is more than just another route."