HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - When the UH Rainbow Warrior football team heads to Seattle this week to play the University of Washington Huskies, tourism officials will tag along to test a marketing idea to bring more visitors to the state.
Because Seattle is Hawaii's third largest U.S. West Coast market for visitors, the Hawaii Tourism Authority is spending $50,000 to pay for some of UH's travel costs, as well as several events around the big game to help market the Aloha Spirit.
"Seattle is a great market for us," said Chris Tatum, HTA President and CEO.
“We’re going to support bringing the cheerleaders out, bringing the Hawaiian Serenaders out, and for the game, we’re bringing all the ti leaves in for all the people that are attending to show our support for the warriors.”
Tatum says there will also be a UH alumni reception, a pre-game rally, as well as a visit to the Seattle Children's Hospital.
University officials say they're thankful for the financial help, and they believe this partnership is a win-win.
"We look at our student athletes, our coaches, and really our team here as ambassadors of aloha," said David Matlin, UH athletic director. "We have about $7.2 million in unique costs because of our geography, so that is a challenge. Every time we're traveling to the mainland, we're going over water. When people come here to play, we have to pay them subsidies."
There have been similar proposals that weren't supported by previous HTA leadership.
Back in 2016, lawmakers considered taking $3 million from the state agency's special tourism fund to help cover UH athletics' travel costs, but the bill died after tourism officials expressed concerns about the impact to Hawaii's marketing efforts.
State Sen. Glenn Wakai, chair of the Senate Tourism Committee, pushed for this partnership and says it’s worth a try.
"If it turns out to be a total disaster and a waste of 50-grand, then we're not going to do it again," said Wakai. "But if this turns into what I believe is a really wonderful marriage between the two agencies, then we'll figure out what opportunities lie ahead for us."
If the Seattle event is successful, Wakai says the state should consider other big Hawaii markets, such as Portland, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
“It’s got to be opportunistic. We’re not going to go to Boise and do this. We’re not going to go to Fresno State and do this. We have to go to our key tourism markets particularly that have direct Hawaii service,” Wakai said.
HTA officials say they’re also looking at supporting other UH sports teams, not just football.