In June 2011, the HVCB’s Big Island Visitors Bureau (BIVB) officially began using the island’s Hawaiian name — “Hawaii” — and introduced a new logo (pictured at right).
The rationale, based on market research, was to “identify the destination properly in its marketing communications,” according to the BIVB.
Apparently, it hasn’t caught on.
So, on Monday, the BIVB sent an email to Hawaii media titled “Media Letter Clarifying Use of Hawaii, the Big Island.”
“To avoid confusion with the state name, we continue to encourage everyone to use Hawai‘i Island or Hawai‘i, the Big Island when referring to the island,” wrote executive director George Applegate. “It is important for us to do this out of respect to this special place we call home. … as a media outlet with great reach and influence, we’d appreciate your kokua by using our island’s proper name when possible.”
OK. But it’s likely to cause a bit of confusion.
Half A Billion Search Results
Many people who live on the Big Island — er, “Hawai‘i Island” or “Hawai‘i, the Big Island” — are indeed sensitive to how the island is referenced. For them, it’s a matter of respect and authenticity.
That’s something the HTA recognized when it made the brand switch two years ago. The name “Hawaii” comes from a mele hanau, or birthing song, according to the HTA; Oahu, Maui, Lanai, Kauai, Molokai, Kahoolawe and Niihau “were also independently named by early Hawaiians.”
“But King Kamehameha the Great, who hailed from Hawaii Island, unified all of the islands under his rule in 1810, the Kingdom of Hawaii was established and it encompassed all the islands,” the HTA explains. “When the Kingdom was overthrown in 1893, and the Territory of Hawaii was established, followed by Statehood, Hawaii became the name for the entire chain of islands located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.”
The rebranding is not just about historical accuracy. Applegate explained that the Big Island nickname “has confused some visitors, who think the ‘Big Island’ means ‘big city,’ and mistake Hawaii Island for Oahu, home to the state capital of Honolulu.”
That may be the case.
But a whole lot of people do use the words “the Big Island.” A Google query turned up 552 million results, and the top two linked to the HTA’s website.
Others in the top 10 search results were for travel companies Fodor’s and Frommer’s, and to a National Geographic article titled “Road Trip: The Big Island of Hawaii,” from its “Drives of a Lifetime” series. That seems like the kind of online interest we should welcome.
Let’s take the name change further.
Locally, should popular businesses like Big Island Candies — home of world-renowned Chocolate Dipped Macadamia Nut Shortbread Cookies — switch names?