slips for isle
More visits byBy Russ Lynch
local residents helped
cushion the blow
Hawaii's theme parks and other tourist attractions saw their attendance slip 1.4 percent last year.
Their performance was saved from being much worse by successful steps to attract local residents to make up for fewer tourists, according to the Hawaii Attractions Association.
Those moves, which included some heavy discounting, boosted attendance by Hawaii residents by more than 400,000 visits in 1998, a 25.1 percent lift to a total of 2.26 million last year compared with 1.81 million in 1997.
However, that same discounting contributed to a decline in revenues that was greater than the decline in visits, the 20-member group said. Full-year revenues at its members' attractions was down 4.5 percent, the group said.
"The only positive thing was that the resident market was up," said Darrell Metzger, president of Atlantis Adventures, which manages Atlantis Subma-rines, Sea Life Park, Wai-mea Valley and Adventure Park and the battleship USS Missouri.
"Most attractions are targeting the local audience, which are easier to get and cheaper to get," he said. They've had to cut prices in the process, however.
Metzger cited a sale last year offering residents a submarine ride for $10 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the business. "We saw our numbers go from 25 a day to 200 per day," Metzger said.
Including tourists and local residents, the overall attendance last year was 9.68 million, compared with 9.55 million in the previous year, according to statistics gathered by accounting firm KPMG Peat Marwick.
A 10.3 percent drop in eastbound tourists going to attractions such as Sea Life Park and the Polynesian Cultural Center was in line with the 10.8 percent drop in tourist arrivals to Hawaii from Asia and the Pacific, reported earlier by the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau.
However, attendance by westbound tourists was down 5 percent, going in the opposite direction to an upswing of 4.1 percent in tourist arrivals from the mainland and Canada, according to the HVCB.
Metzger said many visitors to the islands are repeaters who have seen the attractions before and to get them back, "you've got to add new stuff."