Isles No. 1 with honeymooners
Modern Bride's poll has Hawaii tops even with fewer visitors
Ardor for Hawaii as a top-ranked destination for honeymooners is still hot after nearly a decade, according to survey released yesterday by Modern Bride, but overall visitor numbers for this niche market have cooled.
Hawaii took the No. 1 slot in the magazine's annual World's Best Honeymoons Survey for the 10th consecutive year, beating out destinations Tahiti (2), Italy (3), Mexico (4), Fiji (5), Anguilla (6), St. Lucia (7), Bermuda (8), France (9) and Costa Rica (10).
The annual survey -- which was conducted by Virtuoso Ltd., a network of 6,000 U.S. travel agents -- awarded Hawaii top points for romance, sexy ambience, beaches, food, snorkeling and diving.
The survey is being published in the August/September issue of Modern Bride, which is slated to hit newsstands today.
The magazine explained the survey results this way: "Hawaii and honeymooners are like chocolate and macadamia nuts. Both are great on their own, but together they're irresistible. ... The mix of the familiar and the exotic means there's an aloha experience for everyone. Just a short plane ride from California, Hawaii puts paradise at the honeymooner's fingertips."
But while romantic Hawaii appears to be as popular as ever, recent visitor numbers from the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism indicate that year-to-date the market is down by as much as 7.7 percent for honeymooners and 8.2 percent for wedding couples.
For the international market, the numbers are even less romantic: a 13 percent drop in honeymooners and a 12.7 drop in wedding couples. The domestic market had a 2 percent drop in honeymooners and a scant 0.6 percent drop in wedding couples.
The drop in international honeymoon and wedding traffic can partially be explained by a drop in visitors from Japan, which is traditionally Hawaii's strongest wedding market, said Frank Haas, marketing director for the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
"The Japan market in general is down about 15 percent," Haas said. "Visitors from Japan have been reacting to a lack of availability for hotel rooms, increased fuel surcharges and the declining value of the yen."
Still, the U.S. romance market remains in fairly good shape, Haas said.
"It's a little flat, but we're coming off an exceptional year," he said. "The honeymoon market grew 10.4 percent from 2004 to 2005."
And the outlook for the state's romance market remains hot -- at least on the domestic side, Haas said.
"The U.S. wedding market has the potential to grow 35 percent as the population of 26-year-olds continues to rise through the year 2014," he said.