OPERATORS are attempting to build demand for Hawaii as a traditional two-week beach holiday destination by bringing package prices into line with the Caribbean.
Hawaii has traditionally been promoted in the UKas an add-on to a holiday on the US West Coast but operators are testing demand for the islands as a destination in their own right.
Hawaii Visitors Bureau UK director Julie Blissett said: "Except for the longer flight time of 16 hours, Hawaii is now very competitive with the Caribbean.
"Product satisfaction levels are high due to the superior standard of Hawaii's hotels, and you can get a very good holiday for less than £1,200."
Jetlife Holidays launched its first stand-alone Hawaii brochure this year and is offering a fortnight in Waikiki on Oahu from £739 in November. It includes flights and accommodation at the Marc Hawaiian Monarch Hotel.
Next year, Page and Moy is featuring two-week holidays in the same resort for £799 during April and November, with the price rising by no more than £140 during the rest of the year.
This follows the operator's three weeks for the price of two offer which has been running in certain locations throughout this year.
Jetlife product manager Gill Harvey said: "Hawaii is now one of the fastest-growing destinations for British visitors. Around 100,000 are expected to take holidays there before the end of next year, with the majority experiencing travel to the Pacific region for the first time.
"Hawaii is a great introduction to the area and has probably never been cheaper to visit, thanks to a favourable US exchange rate and low prices once you arrive."
Page and Moy marketing director Patrick Cherry said the company was taking advantage of better flight and accommodation deals to attract people from the popular sushine destinations of Florida and the Caribbean.
He said: "Hawaii is untried by a lot of people because it's seen as a long way off, but at around £800 for two weeks, the price makes it worthwhile.
"Once clients have been once, they return to explore the other islands, particularly Maui, Kauai and the Big Island."
While cut-price deals will no doubt succeed in broadening Hawaii's appeal, Transpacific Holidays chief executive Malcolm James warned that by focusing on cheaper deals to Waikiki beach, operators may not be giving their clients a true taste of Hawaii.
He said: "If a client wants 14 days in Honolulu, our first question is 'have you been before?' We would advise against this and recommend a two or three-island stay.
"Of course, the price goes up because of inter-island flights and transfers, but it is still the best option. The outer islands of Maui and Kauai are much more scenic, have more to see and do, and typify the laid-back, exotic Polynesian lifestyle."
Tradewinds contracts manager Gordon Torrance said the downturn in the Japanese market had enabled hotels - even at the top end of the range - to keep their pricing realistic, without compromising on quality. "Hotel standards are high and service is as good as you'll find anywhere in the US," he added.
The tourist office claims that, apart from June and July last year, Hawaii has seen 18 months of consecutive growth from the UK. The latest visitor figures show an annual increase of 10.3% for the first quarter of the year - on target to beat 1998's total of 80,220 UKvisitors.
The Hawaii Visitors Bureau has anew dedicated telephone number fortour operators and travel agents,0181-941 8166.
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