Hawaii, Caribbean popular with S. Californians
More than 850,000 people in the region will take a holiday plane trip this year, topping 822,000 last year
HAWAII and the Caribbean are the most popular air and cruise destinations for Southern California travelers this holiday season, according to a recent survey by the Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest AAA affiliate.
Two three-day holiday weekends will give more Californians the chance to get away, with more than 8.8 million of them forecast to take a trip during the coming holiday -- a 2.2 percent increase from the previous year.
"With Christmas and New Year's holidays taking place on the weekend for the second year in a row, we'll again see many families taking advantage of the three-day weekends by taking a trip," said Carol Thorp, Automobile Club spokeswoman.
While most California-based travelers will drive to their destination, the Automobile Club survey said that more than 850,000 Southern Californians will take a holiday plane trip this year compared to 822,000 last year. Statewide, nearly 1.4 million Californians will fly and more than 440,000 of them will take another mode of travel such as a bus, train or cruise.
The increase in West Coast traffic is good for Hawaii's visitor industry, which according to statistics from the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism saw total spending by that market increase during the first 10 months of this year by 9.9 percent to $3.5 billion, the highest among the state's four major visitor markets.
Year to date, West Coast arrivals have increased 8 percent to about 2.5 million compared to the same period last year as more of these visitors came to the islands to vacation, visit friends and relatives, and for conventions, corporate meetings and incentives.
The holiday period is just a continuation of strong year-round activity from the West Coast, said Amy Terada, vice president of marketing for Pleasant Holidays LLC, the state's largest travel wholesaler.
"You are pretty packed this season," Terada said. "There are a few pukas here and there but the challenge is finding hotel and air availability at the same time."
The popularity of Hawaii as a destination with the West Coast market led many of these visitors to book holiday travel up to a year out, she said.
A nationwide trend toward more year-round schooling has staggered holidays and caused this peak tourist season to lengthen, she said.
"It used to get busy around Dec. 21st, but I noticed during the last two weeks when I visited Hawaii that it was already quite busy," Terada said.
While the Caribbean is still a strong competitor for East Coast travelers, Hawaii's geographical proximity to the West Coast makes it a much stronger destination, she said.
"We canceled our Caribbean service last year," Terada said.
NCL America's two home-ported cruise ships, Pride of Aloha and Pride of America, are booked solid this holiday season and have been for some time, said Robert Kritzman, executive vice president and managing director of Hawaii Operations for NCL America.
"I actually had friends that tried to book a few weeks ago and I couldn't get them on," Kritzman said.
Last week, Pride of America sailed with 2,500 passengers, about 300 more than is normally considered a full complement.
"That means we have a lot of families on board," he said
While the bulk of cruise passengers are from the East Coast, as many as 30 percent of those sailing this holiday season are from the West Coast, Kritzman said.
"We're still working on growing this market," he said, adding that the holiday survey results were positive news for NCL America.
Total cruise visitor days climbed 50.6 percent during the first ten months of 2005, as 247,426 out-of-state passengers came to Hawaii either by cruise ship or to board one, according to DBEDT.