Tourist tracking app could be part of Hawaii visitor management plan

The Council for Native Hawaii Advancement will be paid $27 million over the next two and a half years to manage tourism in Hawaii.
Published: May. 23, 2023 at 5:30 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Council for Native Hawaii Advancement will be paid $27 million over the next two and a half years to manage tourism in Hawaii. But is that even possible?

Maybe not in the past, but artificial intelligence and the power of an app could make it real.

Hawaii hosts about 10 million visitors a year, and they often tend to go to the same locations — so crowds and traffic can make the experience unpleasant. But lawmakers and the CNHA, which one the destination stewardship contract from the Hawaii Tourism Authority say a smart phone app could be the key.

State Rep. Sean Quinlan, who chairs the House Tourism Committee, said the technology is already available.

“I think it’s just something that we all decided, wow, it’s this kind of obvious, it’s staring us right in the face,” Quinlan said.

The concept already under discussion is a single Hawaii visitor smart phone app — loaded in advance or via QR codes at the airports.

The app would offer visitors useful information and alerts and a place to make reservations and pay fees, in return the government gets the power to watch where they go.

Tyler Iokepa Gomes is responsible for the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement’s management of the HTA contract. He said the data and new artificial intelligence capabilities will make it manage visitors in real time.

“To track where all our visitors are and then perhaps suggestively redirecting them to less occupied spaces and to excursions and activities that aren’t current overloaded,” Gomes said.

Quinlan describes an example of a visitor who wants to go to Waimea Bay at a busy time. They would be given information or reservation opportunities but also be warned about the current crowding, lack of parking and heavy traffic and offered other choices.

“And if you don’t want to sit in traffic for two hours today, here are three or four alternative sites that you can take your family to visit,” Quinlan said. “Because right now, the residents are having a terrible time. And the visitors are having a bad time, too.”

Quinlan said there is money in the Department of Land and Natural Resources budget to begin coordinating the app, hiring visitor management personnel and collecting fees.

Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement CEO Kuhio Lewis said his agency could bring together on the platform the right government agencies and services along with cultural activities and made-in-Hawaii products.

Lewis said that would fit the mission of the contract.

“Involving culture in meaningful ways for our small businesses in ways they can produce and support this industry and benefit from it,” Lewis said.

Lewis said technology is just one tool they could use to meet the demands of the destination stewardship contract. It also could involve stepping in to provide immediate help for overwhelmed places and communities.

“To me, what this means is a new era a new time for tourism and we are excited to be at the table,” Lewis said.