Tourism holding up despite the heavy rains
"Everyone's getting frustrated" but most say there has been no increase in cancellations
After more than 40 days and nights of foul weather, the forecast for Hawaii's visitor industry is kind of cloudy these days.
While Hawaii's recent run of heavy winter rains, sewage spills, floods and bursting dams has not severely dampened visitor arrivals -- business isn't exactly sunny for many tourism-dependent businesses.
On the bright side, most hoteliers, wholesale operators and airlines continue to report that tourist counts are holding their own.
"We haven't seen any drop in activity or rise in cancellations," said Amy Terada, vice president of marketing for Pleasant Holidays LLC, Hawaii's largest wholesaler.
And despite dismal weather, both Aloha Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines have said that they are still busy.
"I've never seen anything like this weather -- it's starting to be like Seattle," said Keoni Wagner, spokesman for Hawaiian Airlines. "But, we're still very busy. We haven't seen an increase in cancellations or people trying to return home early."
Still, poor weather, unsafe road conditions and sewage pollution have begun hurting some of Hawaii's activities and attractions and bringing a boost in revenues to others.
While indoor attractions like the Bishop Museum have reported an increased head count from tourists due to March rains, outdoor attractions aren't faring as well.
For about the last month, the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa Tennis Garden has been losing about $1,000 a day due to rain, said Ken Nakama, tennis director.
"We're normally the driest part of the island, but it's starting to look very green here," Nakama said, adding that two of the resort's six tennis courts are flooded.
KEVIN HALSE / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-BULLETIN
Rainy weather has been unkind to many tourism-related businesses, as well as Hawaii's tourism center itself, Waikiki. Heavy rains yesterday flooded much of the area, including the streets in front of the Waikiki Outrigger Hotel.
The unrelenting rain has disappointed guests and caused work disruptions for staff, Nakama said.
"Everyone's getting frustrated," he said.
Business also is down for Mokulua Kayak Guides, an ecotourism business that started up in July.
"The rain is definitely putting a damper on outdoor activities," said Mokulua Kayak Guides Manager Robbie Schultz. "We had to cancel over half of our business in March."
Visitor counts at the Polynesian Cultural Center have declined by as much as 16 percent from the same time last year, said Alfred Grace, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Oahu's busiest attraction.
"It's been very detrimental," Grace said. "Weather conditions even forced us to close March 2 because we were flooding."
While traffic counts are down at the Polynesian Cultural Center, visitor spending has held its own, he said.
"We've held quite well on the revenue side because most people have migrated to luau and ambassador packages and that has helped us make up revenue deficits," Grace said.
Tourists who aren't buying tickets to activities and attractions seem to be finding other ways to spend their money, said Erica Neves, tourism director for Ala Moana Center, one of the most popular tourist malls in the state.
"Our stores report that visitor traffic is up by single digits and that they are spending much more on purchases," Neves said.
Not, surprising, umbrella sales have been on the rise, she said.
"About half a dozen of our stores have sold out of umbrellas in the last three days," Neves said.