Setting the paceWhen last year's Honolulu Marathon came around, business at Outrigger hotels in Waikiki went into a sprint, an illustration of the economic boost the event gives Hawaii.
Honolulu Marathon attracts
entrants despite tourism slump
By Russ Lynch
"We saw a terrific increase in business that weekend," said Jim Austin, a spokesman for Outrigger Hotels & Resorts. "In the week after the race, business dropped back to its normal level, going down 25 percent, and we saw a similar lull the week before."
"What it really means is we saw a 25 percent increase" for the race, Austin said.
This year, with entry numbers very close to what they were in 2000 despite the dip in tourism from the Sept. 11 attacks and the war in Afghanistan, state officials, race organizers and tourism executives all hope for the same to happen.
In a special report developed for Seiji Naya, director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, his department calculated that the entry numbers as of late last week would result in a contribution of nearly $80 million to the economy, generating more than $3 million in taxes.
Pat Bigold, a spokesman for the Honolulu Marathon, said that as of Tuesday there were a total of 21,245 entries for the Dec. 9 event. Of those, 6,392 are from the mainland, 6,007 are local residents and 8,236 entries are from Japan.
That put total entries only 305 behind last year's pace. On the day after the terrorists crashed jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the entry level stood at about 5,711.
"We could have folded our tent at that point and no one would have blamed us," said Jim Barahal, president of the Honolulu Marathon Association.
Weighing the cost of putting on the race against the total revenue from the small number of entries showed a financial disaster in the making. Barahal said that a month and a half later, on Oct. 26, the picture had not improved much. There were still only 7,615 registrations. Of those, only 684 were from Japan. Things have improved so much since then that Barahal and his crew think it is possible that after all the fears and worries, the total could equal or exceed last year.
The Japanese have until Nov. 29 to register and the entries that have come from Japan so far have mostly been group bookings, Barahal said. There is still plenty of opportunity for individuals to register.
DBEDT looked at past marathons and did its figuring based on the assumption that there will be one non-race companion for every two registered runners. Using a slightly earlier set of figures that showed 7,097 mainland entries and 8,221 from Japan, the department used normal visitor statistics for each group to make its calculation.
For example, it figured on an average stay of 10.11 days for the Americans and six days for the Japanese, and spending levels of $150 a day by the average mainland visitor and $234.70 a day by the average Japanese. That showed the mainlanders here for the marathon spending $16.14 million in the islands and the Japanese spending $29.7 million.
Overall, DBEDT said, the marathon this year should generate direct spending of $57.3 million, which in turn will mean indirect spending and other income in the local community worth $20.1 million and a total of $3.3 million in taxes.
Barahal said Japanese entries early last week were running about 2,200 behind the same time last year but that was a dip of 22 percent, much better than the 60 percent decline in overall Japanese tourist numbers since Sept. 11.
Last year's race had 14,282 entries from Japan, about 54 percent of the total for the race and that seems nearly impossible to equal at this point.
But observers such as DBEDT's Naya say they are happy with the numbers from Japan anyway, seeing them as much better than early expectations.
Gerd Tritschler, director of revenue strategy for the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort, said the hotel is booked solid for the three-day marathon weekend, the first time the hotel has sold out since Sept. 11.
True, the 1,300-room hotel has only half its rooms open while one of its two towers undergoes renovations, but Marriott officials said earlier this month that about 40 percent of the 650 rooms that are available were empty.
Outrigger's Austin said there is a late uptick in bookings and "this year will see more good business" from the marathon. "If we're within 10 percent of last year, we'll consider it a success," he said.
Of importance to Outrigger was the fact that the marathon business usually spreads throughout it Waikiki properties.
Last year, marathon-goers occupied some 7,000 rooms in Outrigger properties alone.
Late entrants from the mainland or Hawaii have until Dec. 8 -- the day before the race -- to enter, and the late entries office at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday that week.
For more information on the Honolulu Marathon, including statistics from previous races and even some amusing trivia about such things as how many paper cups will be used (1.9 million) and how much rope or plastic will be used for course barriers (14,850 feet), see the Web site www.honolulumar athon.org.
Japanese runners in the Honolulu marathon have grown from only a few 20 years ago to the majority of entrants in 2000. The tourism and economic boost is significant.
The Japan factor
Source: Honolulu Marathon Association
Year entrants from Japan % from Japan Other Entrants 2000 26,465 14,282 53.97% 12,183 1999 26,724 12,877 48.20% 13,847 1998 27,704 13,925 50.26% 13,779 1997 33,682 17,952 53.30% 15,730 1996 30,864 18,285 59.25% 12,579 1995 34,434 21,717 63.07% 12,717 1994 32,771 21,291 64.96% 11,480 1993 29,514 19,001 64.34% 10,515 1992 30,905 18,286 59.17% 12,619 1991 14,605 10,236 70.09% 4,369 1990 13,268 8,674 65.3% 4,594 1989 10,813 6,004 55.5% 4,809 1988 10,205 5,094 49.9% 5,111 1987 10,413 4,551 43.7% 5,862 1986 10,354 3,553 34.3% 6,801 1985 9,310 2,361 25.4% 6,949 1984 10,653 1,867 17.5% 8,786 1983 10,847 1,300 11.9% 9,547 1982 12,275 1,500 12.2% 10,775 1981 7,270 977 13.4% 6,293 1980 8,419 650 7.7% 7,769