HONOLULU With visitor counts and airlift from the mainland on the
rise, members of Hawaii’s tourism industry are cautiously
optimistic about prospects for the rest of this year and into 2004.
For the first eight months of 2003, Hawaii’s visitor arrivals
from the mainland rose 3.2 percent compared with the same period
last year, according to the state’s Department of Business,
Economic Development and Tourism.
For the month of August, Hawaii set a new record for domestic
arrivals, which increased 5.1 percent, to 449,761 visitors,
surpassing August 2002’s benchmark of 427,851. Mainlanders who
visited from January through August stayed an average of 10.78
days, 4.9 percent longer than one year ago.
“This year, more than 70 percent of our total visitors will come
through the U.S. mainland, a phenomenon that has not been seen in
15 years,” said Marsha Wienert, Hawaii tourism liaison. “Since
domestic visitors tend to stay longer in the islands, this may have
a very positive impact on our hotel industry.”
The Place to Be
“Hawaii is the place where leisure travelers want to be right
now,” said Rob Solomon, Outrigger Hotels and Resorts senior vice
president of sales and marketing. “We need to keep Hawaii front and
center, making certain that consumers understand the accessibility
of our island destinations and the great value we, as an industry,
are offering. And, we must be diligent in keeping travel agents
aware of new and improved products and offers.”
Primary feeder markets on the West Coast represent more than 50
percent of Castle Resorts & Hotels’ Hawaii business, said Alan
Mattson, the chain’s senior vice president of sales and
“The only caution is, we must continue to remain competitive
with Mexico,” Mattson said. “Many of the tour operators we work
with also sell Mexico, and it seems that their Mexico business is
up more this year than their Hawaii business for the first half of
2003.” The key, said Mattson, is to provide a product that can
compete with Mexico and other destinations focused on aggressive
Karen Hughes, regional vice president of sales and marketing for
Starwood Hotels & Resorts, said Hawaii as a destination is in
good shape for the coming year.
“With the strength of the euro, Americans will be more inclined
to travel in the U.S., where their dollar goes farther,” said
Hughes. “Hawaii has great appeal, especially in uncertain times,
due to its rejuvenating and calming qualities.”
However, the booking window for Hawaii continues to be a
challenge, said Hughes. “The very short booking window makes it
difficult to forecast,” she said. “But the airlines have come
through with some strong fall rates, and we have a great supply of
airlift from all points in the U.S.”
Buoyed by Official Airline Guides schedules as of August, the
Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau predicted that airlines will
have flown 5.9 million seats on scheduled, nonstop domestic flights
to Hawaii by the end of 2003, an 8.8 percent in 2002 levels.
This year’s steady increase in airlift to Hawaii has directly
impacted occupancies at hotel chains like Marriott.
According to Paul Toner, area director of marketing for Marriott
International, the company’s Hawaii occupancies for the first half
of 2003 exceeded those from the same period last year. “We
anticipate that the momentum of this successful summer will carry
over to the fall and winter, as well as into the first quarter of
2004,” he said.
Toner noted that several gateways are performing well. “Southern
California continues to be a strong market for us,” he said. “We’re
also seeing an increase in visitors from cities where direct
flights are available, such as Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Seattle
The upswing in westbound airlift is equally apparent at the
Outrigger chain, said Solomon.
“The West Coast has remained a strong market for us, and
interior business has picked up thanks to gateways that have added
daily nonstop service, like Denver,” he said. “In the absence of
any bad news or disruptive factors, the first quarter of 2004
should look positive compared to 2003.”
Hawaii officials have another reason for optimism in the form of
Norwegian Cruise Lines’ growing commitment to the islands. Along
with the Norwegian Star’s weekly cruises out of Honolulu and its
seasonal 10- and 11-day itineraries on the Norwegian Wind, the
company next year is adding three-, four- and seven-day interisland
cruises on Pride of America and Pride of Aloha.
NCL’s increased focus on Hawaii means more exposure for the
islands, said Mattson. “Their new cruises will bring first-time
visitors to Hawaii and repeat visitors back,” he said.