How Spring Stacks Up

It might surprise some to learn that the spring travel season in Hawaii is its second busiest visitor season, following summer, accounting for about 25 percent of annual visitor flow.

By: By Karla Aronson

Hawaii Spring on Sale

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Hanauma Bay continues to draw crowds to Oahu. // © istockphoto.comIt might surprise some to learn that the spring travel season in Hawaii is its second busiest visitor season, following summer, accounting for about 25 percent of annual visitor flow.

“Spring is popular,” said Jay Talwar, senior vice president of marketing at the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau. “We don’t project any seasonal variation this year.”

The same holds true for Hawaii’s numbers over all. According to University of Hawaii economists, visitor levels for 2008 are projected to be flat, said Chris Kam, director of market trends at the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.

One trend that has been emerging is a significant increase in the amount of multi-island visitors, Talwar said. Even separating out the multi-island cruise ship passengers, the multi-island visitor numbers are still high. Part of that trend can be attributed to Hawaii’s strong repeat visitor count — 60 to 70 percent. High visitor satisfaction ratings, moreover, indicate customers will continue to come back and explore, Talwar said.

One boon to the overall numbers could be an increase in beds. There has been tremendous investment over the last three years in all accommodation types, Talwar said, with notable expenditures in the luxury segment. While some of the renovation projects have led to short-term constrictions in accommodations supply, it has been offset by increasing timeshare and cruise industry visitors.

According to figures from the Hawaii state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, Hawaii’s guestrooms break down as follows by class:

• Budget (room rate up to $100 per night): 12.3 percent of statewide room inventory
• Standard ($101 to $250 per night): 39.5 percent of statewide room inventory
• Deluxe ($251 to $500 per night) 37.1 percent of statewide room inventory
• Luxury (over $500 per night): 11.1 percent of statewide room inventory.

Island by Island
“Oahu’s visitor industry infrastructure has undergone significant positive change during the past decade, and we anticipate that this improvement will continue in the spring season and well into the future,” said Les Enderton, executive director of the Oahu Visitors Bureau. “Unfortunately, a weakening U.S. economy and high fuel prices will likely continue to cause a statewide reduction in the number of visitors from Asia and the U.S. mainland.”

Enderton said that Honolulu’s recent improvements, and creative marketing, should continue to help the island’s numbers this spring.

“The revitalization of Waikiki has enabled visitors to experience new and improved dining, hotel and activity options. During the upcoming spring season, many Waikiki hotels, ranging from budget to luxury, will offer packages, savings and special amenities to families,” he said.

On Maui, renovations and improvements are also seen as key to the island’s overall numbers.

“New or different for Maui is the completion of some major upgrades and renovations in almost all our resorts, including some new activities,” said Terryl Vencl, executive director of the Maui Visitors Bureau.

Vencl went on to say that one challenge facing all the islands is a drop in cruise numbers due to Norwegian Cruise Line’s decision to pull one of its two ships from the islands, as well as from a general market correction.

“Maui may see a drop in visitor arrivals as we see one NCL ship going out of service in late February,” said Vencl. “We are hoping to maintain land-based visitors, although there seems to be a softness in the market. I believe some of that can be attributed to ‘right sizing.’ We’ve had year over year growth that is difficult to sustain.”

Over on the Big Island, demand is strong and with so many repeat visitors, the challenge is finding accommodations for more long-term stays. And, like Maui, the Big Island sees the loss of an NCL ship possibly contributing to a dip in visitor numbers.

“Cruise counts may be down, not just on the Big Island, but all over the state,” said George Applegate, executive director of the Big Island Visitors Bureau. “But the demand for Hawaii is very strong, especially from the West.”

Kauai reports that it should see a bump in its numbers due to increased airlift.

“The outlook for Kauai continues to be strong. We are pleased to see two new nonstop flights from San
Diego and Orange County via Aloha Airlines. Delta Airlines is starting nonstop service from Los Angeles beginning in June,” said Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau. “We believe these flights reinforce the message of Kauai as a primary destination to our West Coast visitors.”