By AUDREY McAVOY
HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii is starting to market itself to travelers from Southeast Asia.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority this year hired a contractor to promote the state in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Together, the four countries have a population of 468 million people.
The push comes amid plans by Malaysia-based low-cost carrier AirAsia X to begin flying to Honolulu from Kuala Lumpur. The Hawaii Tourism Authority expects the route to launch during the first half of next year. No airline currently operates direct flights to Hawaii from Southeast Asia.
Hawaii Tourism Southeast Asia contractor Kelvin Ong told industry representatives at a meeting Tuesday the region offers huge opportunity for Hawaii's tourism industry. He says the biggest challenge is that people there don't know what Hawaii has to offer.