Arrivals on track to top 7 million
Mainland visitor arrivals continued to increase last month, while the Japan market was flat
VISITOR ARRIVALS to Hawaii rose 6.5 percent last month to a record 562,243 as a slowdown in Japanese arrivals was offset by record growth from the U.S. mainland and strong increases from Canada.
November's positive showing led to the best 11-month year-to-date result for the state's visitor industry, which is forecast to hit more than 7 million visitors by year-end.
While foreign arrivals were flat during November, domestic arrivals increased 9.2 percent to 400,600, according to data released yesterday from the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
"We are thrilled by the continued resurgence of our visitor industry," said state Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert.
Arrivals from the state's top two markets, the U.S. West and U.S. East, were up 8.1 percent and 11.8 percent, respectively, in November. These two markets represent more than 65 percent of Hawaii's visitors.
Arrivals from Hawaii's top international market, Japan, fell by 2.4 percent; arrivals from Canada rose 8.4 percent as the strength of the Canadian currency rose against the dollar, giving snowbirds more buying power.
There also have been a lot more European visitors on the streets of Waikiki, said Anne Murata, marketing director for the Festival Cos., which manages the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center.
"The Hawaii Tourism Authority's decision to split the marketing programs and hire marketing professionals in separate countries has really paid off," Murata said. "We are seeing a real increase in international shoppers from locations outside of Japan."
The Japan market was flat in December due to higher prices and less room on planes and in hotels, said Ryokichi Tamaki, senior vice president at Jalpak, a large Japan market tour operator.
"The big convention in the middle of the month really hurt us," Tamaki said. "We already have lost 3,000 rooms due to renovations and conversions and we had huge difficulties finding rooms."
In the first 11 months of the year, the state had 6.7 million arrivals, up 6.9 percent from a year ago. Into the new year, the mainland travel market is expected to hold strong with the Japan market rebounding.
The strength of Japan's economy and the Tokyo stock exchange, combined with a still-acceptable yen-to-dollar ratio, is expected to boost travel from Japan in January and March, Tamaki said.
"Only a limited number of people from Japan can purchase travel in December because the rates are very expensive," Tamaki said. He expects more Japanese visitors will travel to Hawaii in January to take advantage of a three-day weekend surrounding the Jan. 9 Adults Day holiday as well as better package prices.
However, February bookings are slow from Japan due to limited inventory, Tamaki sad.
Contributing to the November increase was an 84.1 percent growth in the number of visitors who attended conventions in Hawaii, Wienert said. An International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans 2005 convention brought 7,144 delegates to the islands.
Hawaii's strong honeymoon market has also boosted arrivals, Wienert said.
While November is traditionally the state's strongest wedding/honeymoon month, nuptial-related traffic grew 11.4 percent last month, she said.
Visitor arrivals in the state's cruise ship industry rose 41.5 percent last month, with about 22,669 visitors touring the islands by ship.
Total time spent in Hawaii increased 4.9 percent from last year. Visitors stayed an average of 8.6 days last month and spent $892 million, boosting overall spending 8.3 percent for the first 11 months of the year to $10.4 billion.
Hawaii's hotel industry has finally reached a stabilized level and is back on the track that had been projected before 9/11, said Barry Wallace, senior vice president of hospitality services for Outrigger Enterprises.
"We've been setting records, but it's not like we are all making incredible amounts of money," Wallace said. "We've been working really hard to get to pre-9/11 levels."
After a four-year gap, most hotels in the state, including Outrigger, have almost reached that trajectory again, Wallace said.