More than a quarter century of experience as Hawaii's air-tour leader. read more ยป

In the foreground, awesome Pu'u Kanehoalani; in the distance, Oahu's legendary landmark "Chinaman's Hat."

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Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau LogoBlue Hawaiian is proud to be a member in good standing of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB). The colorful history of the Bureau is a fascinating look into Hawaii's evolution into the world's favorite dream destination.

The ancestor of the HVCB was founded in 1902, when the Hawaii Merchants Association proposed a permanent tourism promotion bureau. One of the earliest tourism promotion pamphlets contained a bit of pithy prose from a speech by a talented California newspaper columnist, Mark Twain, correspondent for the Sacramento Union. Hawaii tourism promoters and others have used his lines time and again since then. Hawaii, he wrote, is "the loveliest fleet of islands anchored in any ocean."

Over the decades, promotional efforts grew and so did the number of tourists. Colorful community events were staged, usually involving flowers and parades. Entertainment flourished to keep the visitors occupied. Wonderfully wacky hapa-haole music was performed to ukulele and steel guitar. The tourist hula show was born, and instantly became controversial. The missionary families still considered the hula to be immoral, but the tourists loved it.

The Bureau took part in many promotional activities over the years, but the most enduring and successful was launched in 1935—the legendary radio program, Hawaii Calls. Originated, produced and narrated by Webley Edwards, it was broadcast for nearly four decades to the Mainland, Canada and Australia every Saturday, usually from the Moana Hotel's lanai on Waikiki Beach. Listeners grew up with the sounds of Hawaii from that popular show and developed lifelong desires to see and hear the real thing.

In 1941, a record year, in which 31,846 visitors arrived, World War II brought an abrupt end to tourism in Hawaii. Three years later, the Chamber of Commerce began bringing it back to life with a Hawaii Travel Bureau, which concerned itself with leaving a friendly Territorial impression on the servicemen who were soon to go home. In 1945, the Hawaii Visitors Bureau was launched. Major Mark Egan was named secretary, and a whole new era of Hawaii tourism promotion began.

An important priority was to get the ocean liner Lurline back in the passenger business after her wartime duty. It cost Matson $19 million, but in the spring of 1948, with an exuberant welcome by some 150,000 people and an 80 vessel escort arranged by the HVB, she steamed into Honolulu Harbor to reclaim her title as "glamour girl of the Pacific." In 1948, American President Lines resumed plying the Pacific and scheduled air service was inaugurated to Hawaii.

A long maritime strike in 1949 cut Hawaii tourism in half, to 25,000 visitors, so the Legislature agreed to match private contributions to the tourism promotion budget. That made it a million-dollar proposition over two years: Advertising on the Mainland; transmitting and financing Hawaii Calls; special displays; Mainland offices; movies; publicity; literature; guides; warrior markers; music and hula to greet arriving ships and planes, and an HVB flower lei for every visitor!

Special people got special greetings. The Lurline herself got a steamship sized lei, 80 feet of orange crepe paper, during the 1948 reception. In 1953, the HVB held a pretty face contest and selected hula dancer Mae Beimes as the first official HVB Poster Girl. Her sweet smile and proffered plumeria lei adorned a poster that is still a part of Hawaii history. Beimes was succeeded later by Beverly Rivera Noa, and Rose Marie Alvaro, a dancer who posed for four posters, and followed by Liz Logue, Tracy Monsarrat and Zoe Ann Roach, they became Hawaii's best known representatives around the world.

Statehood in 1959 brought with it the arrival of the first jet service to Honolulu. Tourism exploded. Waikiki began to build up (and up). Sheer numbers eroded some of the personal touch like a lei greeting for every arriving visitor. But the Bureau hit the road. Hawaiian entertainers and promotion experts circled the globe to spread the Island word.

Steadily during the 60's, 70's, and 80's the millions of tourists added up, and the HVB and Hawaii learned to cope with the problems of success. The yearly tourism total peaked at nearly seven million people in 1990.

In July 1996, the Bureau's name was officially changed to the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, to reflect a new emphasis on business/meeting travel and a new responsibility for marketing the world class, state-of-the-art Hawaii Convention Center. The $350 million Center officially opened in June 1998 and represented the first significant tourism-related construction in over five years.

The nature of tourism promotion changed to keep pace with the rest of the world. The advertising programs that in the past had sold Hawaii with pretty girls and palm trees now began to stress the Islands' diversity, their Hawaiian culture and history, and the wide range of sports, activities, and cuisine available.

While global competition has intensified, Hawaii remains among the world's most desired destinations. Unsurpassed natural beauty, pristine physical environment, the majestic diversity of islands, combined with our world-famous spirit of "aloha," continue to be an unbeatable combination.