Hawaii has long been one of Australia’s most popular holiday hot spots, but it’s now becoming a destination for sports fans with the number of Aussies travelling to Hawaii to watch or take part in a sporting event increasing 44 percent in 2015.

Speaking at a dinner in conjunction with the University of Hawaii’s Rainbow Warriors first-ever football game in Australia, Hawaii Tourism Oceania Country Manager, Kerri Anderson said Hawaii was primed to become an Aussie sporting destination.

“It’s no secret that Aussies love our sports and sporting related holidays are on the rise – whether it’s as a spectator or as a participant it is a market that we are keen to grow for Hawaii,” Anderson said.

“We mostly picture Hawaii as a relaxing holiday destination, but an increasing number of Australians are an active part of the sports scene across the Hawaiian Islands.

“This ranges from participating in events such as Outrigger canoeing–where there are close to 80 clubs across Australia–to stand up paddle boarding races, open water swims, surfing championships, PGA golf, marathons and Ironman events, to going along to support friends and family and taking a holiday at the same time.

“A number of young Australian athletes have also been recruited to play for University of Hawaii athletics teams including water polo, basketball, baseball, softball, and of course football.”

Anderson said HTO hoped that the University of Hawaii season opener against the University of California Golden Bears in Sydney, would peak peoples’ interest and encourage them to go and watch a game in Hawaii.

“Being Hawaii’s only football team, the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors are hugely popular across the state.  There is no better way to get involved with the locals than to see if you can catch a game at Aloha Stadium during a visit to Hawaii – or see other great college sports such as basketball or baseball.”

George D. Szigeti, President and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, who is visiting Australia to meet with Hawaii’s key Australian travel partners and to attend the University of Hawaii game, said Australia is one of Hawaii’s most important international markets.

“It’s clear that Aussies love Hawaii, and we love having them visit and experience our Aloha Spirit, embrace our culture and enjoy our scenic natural beauty,” Szigeti said.

“The laid-back and friendly personalities of the Australians is very much like how we live in Hawaii. I think that’s a key reason why Aussies tend to stay longer here than visitors from other countries. There’s a real feeling of kinship when they come here.

Market research shows that growth in travel to Hawaii from Australia is up 2.8 percent through the first two quarters of 2016, with more than 157,000 Australians visiting Hawaii compared to the previous year. In addition, spending by Aussies over that same time-frame is up 7.7 percent to US$397.6 million, – or around US$2520 per person.

Szigeti noted that more than 45 percent of these visitors from Australia were returning to Hawaii for their second trip.

“Hawaii continues to be one of Australia’s favourite holiday destinations because there are so many new fascinating experiences to explore on our six beautiful islands. I think knowing there is so much more of Hawaii to discover is what keeps drawing our friends from Australia back. We look forward to welcoming them with aloha.”

Kendall Davies is an intern journalist in her final year of completing a double degree in Journalism/Business at Griffith University on the Gold Coast. With a passion and love for travel, Kendall has ventured around the globe on many occasions- travelling through Europe, the UK and Ireland, Thailand, Singapore, the east coast of Australia and Whitsundays, and most recently Canada and Mexico. She dreams to one day live overseas in New York, and work as a travel or fashion journalist amongst the hustle and bustle of the “Big Apple”. Since she picked up the travel bug at the age of 9, Kendall looks forward to planning and prepping for her next adventures, wherever in the world they may be.