Hawaii Tourism Authority and Expedia Use Smiles and Sunshine to Customize a Vacation

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Discover Your Aloha
Discover Your Aloha Credit: Hawai'i Tourism Authority
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The Hawai'i Tourism Authority has partnered with Expedia Media Solutions, the advertising sales division of Expedia, on the global "Discover Your Aloha," a push designed to encourage visits to the eight Hawaiian Islands. Rather than just show a two-minute video highlighting the lush greenery, mountain landscape and distinct culture of the islands, the campaign measures viewers' facial reactions through their webcams as they watch, and then offers them a personalized travel package.

It's the first time either organization has used such technology.

"Hawaii has so much to offer as a destination, but it's very difficult for anyone making a decision to know exactly what type of vacation to take," said Don Smith, executive creative director of U.K.-based digital agency Realise, which worked on the campaign, noting the diversity of hikes, beaches, food and cultures. "We thought, 'Let's show them that stuff and see if we can interpret what they like by watching them watching us.'"

Though Hawaii typically sees 8.5 million visitors each year, the HTA is tasked with maintaining the islands as a tourism destination, especially when facing increasing competition from Asia for travelers including tech-hungry millennials.

"The campaign is unique," said Randy Baldemor, chief operating officer at the HTA. "By using the technology in this way, it is set up to take the focus away from the destination and the focus becomes the user, in a subtle way."

When consumers visit the "Discover Your Aloha" microsite, they are asked to opt in to the webcam experience in order to be paired with a Hawaiian guide—the all-knowing bird, the loving spirit octopus or the bold adventurer pig—that best matches their personality. Once viewers grant access to the camera, the facial-recognition software uses 76 facial points, such as the tip of a nose or the edge of a mouth, to determine which parts of the video resonate the most. Afterward, consumers are offered their own customized vacation package with discounts and specific activities through Expedia.

"This campaign and Hawaii is taking a step ahead—how do we make sure we're securing our destination in an intelligent way for the future by making sure future generations are exposed to a full range of experiences," said Noah Tratt, global senior VP of Expedia Media Solutions. "We've been working really hard to use technology in a novel way."

Mr. Smith said millennials appreciate technology and being early adopters, often so they can share novel experiences with their social-media networks. But measuring smiles and reactions might not be something for every viewer. To that end, Expedia and the HTA developed a brief quiz that consumers can take instead to determine which vacation is best suited for their travel needs.

In order to capture the most of the Hawaiian landscape, "Discover Your Aloha" used drones to film hard-to-see footage that appears more authentic for its rarity. Mustache produced the video footage, along with FX Group and Sky's the Limit.

Mr. Baldemor said the budget for the campaign is significant: HTA spends tens of millions of dollars throughout the year on traditional marketing, but this effort is particularly pricey. He declined to disclose a specific amount.

Expedia has been promoting the video and site through all of its brands, including Orbitz and Travelocity. The companies are also pushing out behind-the-scenes content on social media such as Instagram and Snapchat.

By mid-October, two weeks in, visitors were averaging nearly four minutes on the microsite, according to Expedia's Mr. Tratt. That's a lengthy stay by web standards. The bounce rate of visitors clicking away without engaging has also been low, at 28%. "If people were put off by the technology, they'd leave, but the engagement looks really strong," he said, though he cautioned that these are early indicators.