Thursday, August 26, 2004

Japanese arrivals to Hawaii jumped nearly 29 percent in July as part of a continuing recovery. Above, visitors from Osaka play at Hanauma Bay.

U.S. East
arrivals up 16%

Hawaii's visitor industry enjoyed another record-breaking month in July thanks to the growing strength of its twin "far east" markets.


Visitor arrivals from Japan grew 28.9 percent and those from the U.S. East Coast rose 15.9 percent in July from a year earlier, helping to sustain the steady growth in total arrivals and tourist spending that has kept the visitor industry hot this summer.

The state welcomed 683,006 visitors last month -- a year-on-year increase of 10.7 percent -- who pumped $1 billion into the state's economy.

Though arrivals from the West Coast dipped slightly, the continued blossoming of the eastern U.S. visitor market helped push the number of domestic visitors to 504,692 -- higher than in any previous July, the state's Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism said yesterday.

"That's great news because it means we now have three solid markets supporting Hawaii's visitor industry," said David Carey, president and chief executive of Outrigger Hotels and Resorts.

After it was formed in 1999, the state Hawaii Tourism Authority broke the U.S. mainland markets into east and west segments to better gauge where to direct its marketing efforts.

That strategy is bearing fruit, said consultant Joe Toy, president of Hospitality Advisors LLC. Visitors from the eastern U.S. typically try to get more -- and end up giving more -- out of their Hawaii trips due to the longer distances they must travel compared to West Coasters, he said.

"We're seeing strong increases in that segment and that's very positive because East Coast tourists tend to spend more, stay longer, and visit more islands," Toy said.

He added that the increasingly tight space in hotel rooms so far this year, and especially this summer, bodes well for the future because it means hotels should be able to direct larger group business to traditionally slower times of the year, such as spring and fall.

During previous periods when tourism was soft, hotels would try to steer such business to the peak seasons, when rates are higher.

The state hosted 196,070 visitors from the eastern U.S. last month. Growth in West Coast visitor numbers was flat in July, however, with 283,300 tourists jetting to Hawaii.

"I'm not concerned about that at all. That's a good solid market that has been relatively steady year to year," said Outrigger's Carey.

The famed Japanese yen for all things Hawaiian continued to recover from the blow delivered last year by the SARS scare and war with Iraq, which severely dampened outbound travel to all destinations.

Last month saw the arrival of 128,359 Japanese tourists, compared with 99,600 in July 2003.

"That market's still in recovery mode; we're still behind the eight ball. But Japanese seem to be traveling more in general so there's more room for growth there," Toy said.

The growing numbers of Japanese tourists helped lift overall international arrivals by 22 percent in July, the fifth straight month with a year-on-year gain.

The state figures did show some soft areas, however. The average length of stay dipped across all markets, resulting in an overall 5.3 percent decline to 9.29 days. This in turn may have contributed to a slight 1.6 percent decline in per-person spending per trip.

Toy, however, said this is probably not an indication of a change in spending habits, but is the result of fewer perks such as extra nights being offered by hotels since the market is now so robust.



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