We’ve talked recently about what to do when starting a new business in 2021. This led to a discussion about harnessing the power of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

This week, we look more specifically at trends surrounding business in the state of Hawaii, and how businesses can change in order to thrive this year.

While these are useful to almost any business in the era of COVID-19, we’re going to look specifically at how they’ve affected Hawaii in the last 12 months.

The State of the State

The biggest change to Hawaii business came due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, which slashed tourism to the islands.

Even businesses that don’t directly benefit from tourism suffered. The lack of customer base, coupled with increased restrictions, cost local brick-and-mortar shops dearly. The blow to tourism still hasn’t subsided, with the latest numbers showing that visits are down 77% compared with the previous year.

In 2019, you could expect 250,000 visitors to Hawaii on an average day. Now, that number looks closer to 60,000, with many of them spending a sizable portion of their time here under quarantine.

Currently, all arriving visitors to Hawaii need to quarantine for 10-14 days, unless they show proof of a negative COVID-19 test from a reputable source. Some counties require an additional quarantine for inter-county travel.

This led to a difficult landscape for local Hawaiian businesses, as important revenue streams dry up. It forces them to pivot.

Why It’s Time For a Change

Because Hawaii is so tourism-dependent for its economy, it took a severe beating from the pandemic. Last month, tourism-related spending was down 48% from the previous year.

However, not everything is doom and gloom.

In response, Governor David Ige called for greater unemployment benefits, coupled with a pivot to technology. He called on businesses and workers of Hawaii to take advantage of digital technology, in order to hedge against future fluctuations in tourism.

I couldn’t agree more.

In 2020, local searches for businesses went through the roof. As people’s options for travel fell away, they began to explore their own backyards.

In addition, lower building capacity and constant regulatory uncertainty means businesses need to stay flexible. The more they can leverage technology, the better.

Finally, customers are likelier to adopt new features during prolonged, difficult times. They understand things have changed. More and more people adopted digital services like delivered meals and groceries, video-based fitness, and TV streaming services.

So local customers are primed, willing to try new things, and technology has the edge over traditional business. Thankfully, no matter your particular business, you can take advantage of this “new normal.”

The 3 Pivots Every Hawaii Business Should Make This Year

  • Focus On Local SEO

It’s much harder for tourists to come from out of state, so it’s time to focus on the local customer.

Businesses that focus on reaching the people closest to them physically will see much more success than those who “hold out,” waiting for things to get back to normal.

Though we don’t know when Hawaii’s tourism industry may regain full strength, we know that 1.4 million people live in our state. It’s time to attract them to your website by ranking higher on their searches.

We’ll cover more on Local SEO in the weeks to come, but check out this free guide in order to get started!

  • Embrace E-Commerce

Some businesses require in-person foot traffic for revenue. But if you think about it, there are plenty of businesses that really don’t. If you’re willing to get creative, your business can adopt e-commerce to attract more customers than you would normally have in-person.

Many restaurants did this, when lockdowns first began. They pivoted to pickup and contact-free delivery as soon as they could, which helped offset the losses and labor costs associated with in-person dining.

Many fitness centers moved to video-based classes, training, and nutrition coaching.

Even tourism-related businesses can thrive in an e-commerce environment, selling experiences like “Hawaii in a box” for people to experience anywhere in the world.

Your business has the opportunity and challenge to pivot to e-commerce in a creative way. 

  • Host Outdoor Events

This is an advantage to living in Hawaii as opposed to say, Vermont (no offense if you’re from Vermont). The climate here makes outdoor events more realistic, and outdoor events have fewer government regulations to follow.

If you’re struggling to gain foot traffic to your business, or need to drive more traffic to your website, consider hosting an event in the great outdoors. This will increase exposure, build goodwill with local customers, and add fuel to the fire.

Take some time to learn the specific guidelines for your county and put an event together. This could be a luau, beach party, or something unusual and intriguing, like a scavenger hunt. If it goes well, it can even become a tradition, something that drives traffic to your store on a consistent basis every year.

With pivots like these, you’ll open new streams of revenue… ones that don’t need to wait until Hawaii reopens, and won’t soon fade if they lock us down again.

If you need help making adjustments with your digital marketing or SEO, don’t hesitate to give us a call.


Photos by Kevin Davison, dan garri and ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

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