More visitors are diversifying their hawaii experience by . . .
NCL America's growth has allowed some Oahu attractions to stay afloat while providing a boost to the neighbor islands
JOY AND L.M. MADISON, visitors from Virginia, stood outside the USS Missouri Memorial on a recent Monday and gawked at the majestic historic attraction.
"This is what made our decision to come to Hawaii," Joy Madison said, adding that her sister's son was in the Navy and her father was in the military.
The Madisons represent a new crop of Hawaii tourists who didn't come here just to see sun, sand and surf. This couple and other visitors like them are a key focus of Hawaii's tourism marketing campaigns, which are designed to attract "venturesome" visitors who will spend more money and stay longer enjoying the activities and attractions that are spread throughout the state.
Since visitor numbers, especially from the mainland, began reaching record numbers in 2004, the state activities and attractions market has grown exponentially and has played a vital role in the state's visitor mix. Activities and attractions entice first-time visitors from new markets to come to Hawaii and offer repeat visitors another reason to visit.
Performance for neighbor island activities and attractions are up as a result of the increase in the number of visitors who are choosing to diversify their Hawaii experience by venturing outside of Oahu, and the frequent scheduled stops made by NCL America's three home-ported cruise ships. However, Oahu suppliers tell a different story, reporting that a drop in visitor arrivals combined with increases in travel costs and decreases in disposable income have caused their market to go flat.
"When it comes to activities and attractions, Maui is very busy. Kauai and the Big Island are also doing very well, but Oahu is slightly down," said Toni Marie Davis, executive director of the Activities & Attractions Association of Hawaii.
NEIGHBOR ISLAND FAVORITES
Neighbor island attractions are up because NCL America is adding 8,000 visitors per week to the Hawaii market and more people are deciding to venture outside of Oahu.
|Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
|| 1.6 million
|Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park
|Pacific Tsunami Museum
|Haleakala National Park
|| 1.5 million
|Aquarium Maui/Maui Ocean Center
|Whalers Village Museum
|Kalaupapa National Historical Park
U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE
|Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
|Kauai Children's Discovery Museum
* 2004 visitor count used because 2005 was unavailable.
Source: Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism
STILL, THE REBOUNDING tourism market has significantly increased the number of activities and attractions doing business in Hawaii. And NCL America has created a niche, allowing some businesses to take off and others to stay afloat, Davis said.
"We've now got about 500 activities and attractions in the state, contributing at least $2.2 billion in sales a year to the state's economy," Davis said. "And that number is growing fast as more business owners are finding ways to tap into Hawaii's niche markets."
Visitor arrivals to Oahu were down nearly 5 percent for the first half of the year, and that is reflected in the number of visitors who come to attractions like the Battleship Missouri Memorial, said Paul Dyson, vice president of sales and marketing for the USS Missouri Memorial Association Inc.
"We're down a little less than a percent, but our penetration is up," Dyson said. "There are number of hotel rooms on Oahu that are being renovated or have been torn down. I would expect to see an increase in December when more hotel rooms are available."
While the neighbor islands offer less activities and attractions than Oahu, visitor penetration is high.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island attracted 1.6 million visitors in 2005, the most of any attraction in the state. Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park and the Pacific Tsunami Museum are other popular stops among Big Island tourists.
Haleakala National Park on Maui gets almost as many visitors as the USS Arizona Memorial on Oahu. Visitors also like to check out the Aquarium Maui/Maui Ocean Center and the Whaler's Village Museum.
Kauai gets fewer arrivals than Oahu, the Big Island or Maui, so the Garden Isle's attractions boast smaller head counts; however participation from these visitors is high. Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, the Kauai Museum and the Kauai Children's Discovery Museum are among the most popular attractions to visit.
An increase in cruise passengers has helped bolster business by about 20 percent for Skyline Zipline and Eco-Tours in Maui, said General Manager Erik McLellan.
"We have at least one NCL tour per day and two per summer," McLellan said. "It's been a pretty big factor for consistency of business. Last year we had them four days a week, now they run from five to seven days per week."
There's no doubt that NCL America has given Hawaii's activities and attractions industry a boost by adding 8,000 visitors per week to the Hawaii market, said Denise Hayashi, director of community relations for NCL America.
"The seven-day cruise itinerary (Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Hilo and Kona) offers more than 100 hours in port, which provides the passenger with time onshore to experience the islands," Hayashi said.
Hawaii has been ranked as the eighth-fastest- growing cruise destination in the nation by International Council of Cruise Lines. NCL has contributed to most of that growth, with more than 12,000 new jobs created both onboard and onshore, including the activities market, she said.
"All NCL passengers leave the ship to participate in onshore activities," Hayashi said, adding that the cruise line currently offers about 200 such excursions.
As NCL America has expanded its operations in Hawaii, it also has expanded the number of activities it offers, she said.
"With each new ship added to the Hawaii market -- Pride of Aloha, Pride of America and Pride of Hawaii -- we have had to increase our onshore offerings to satisfy customer interest and demand," Hayashi said.
Business is so good that McLellan said he plans to open an additional course next year on the West side of Maui.
"There is still plenty of room for growth in the activities industry," he said.
Business is slightly down at the Polynesian Cultural Center, the state's No. 1 paid tourist attraction, for the first time since 2001; however that hasn't stopped the business from reinvesting in the product, said Von Orgill, president of the Polynesian Cultural Center and of A3H, the industry trade organization for Hawaii's activities and attractions.
'We've added a variety of different interactive activities to the village experiences and we've seen a significant boost to guest satisfaction," Orgill said.
A number of other attractions on Oahu, such as Sea Life Park, the Bishop Museum, Dole Plantation and Atlantis also have begun refreshing their markets, he said.
"We believe strongly in the future of this market," Orgill said. "Right now, visitors are spending more on airfare and hotel rooms and that's limiting what they can spend on other activities. However, we believe that hotel rates can't continue to escalate so rapidly and that airline prices will stabilize."
Also, the visitor industry's push to fill planes with higher-spending visitors is expected to pay off, Orgill said.
The growing range of activities and attractions is the primary focus of the HVCB's fall marketing campaign, "Picture Hawaii," which is designed to enhance tourism by showcasing more than sun and surf, said John Monahan, president and chief executive of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.
"Picture Hawaii is ingenious because it lets visitors look at the natural beauty of Hawaii and the diversity of Hawaii, and it's all brought to them by the people of Hawaii, Monahan said.
The state also has begun putting more emphasis on marketing activities and attractions this year, even inviting members of that industry to market their products at travel industry tours alongside wholesalers, he said.
The state recently launched a fall marketing campaign which advertises Hawaii's parks and wildlife refuges, Monahan said. The campaign will target newspapers in 21 gateway cities and will be distributed to 600 travel editors and freelance writers in the United States and Canada, he said.
"We want people to fall for the nature of Hawaii," he said.
Hawaii's visitor industry also has supported activities and attractions by promoting Web sites that boost online reservations and bookings, said Davis.
HVCB's Web site, www. gohawaii.org, as well as A3H's, www.hawaiifun.org, and a host of others like them have made it easier for suppliers to turn a profit, she said.
"We've discovered that people will book their air, hotel and cars; and if you give them the tools, they'll also book their activities," Davis said.
Longer lead times for providers have allowed them to become more efficient through yield management and operational planning, she said.
"It's a dream come true for the suppliers," she said, adding that while arrivals for activities and attractions might be down in some regions of the state, most are still enjoying a boost in revenue.
The USS Arizona Memorial, the top attraction on Oahu, brought in 1.5 million visitors in 2005.
TOP OAHU ATTRACTIONS
The USS Arizona Memorial and Hanauma Bay were favorites among visitors in 2005.
|USS Arizona Memorial
|| 1.5 million
|| 1.4 million
|Polynesian Cultural Center
|Sea Life Park
|Honolulu Academy of Arts
|USS Bowfin Submarine Museum
|Waimea Valley Audubon Center
Source: Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism