Tourism officials bullish on Oahu
The Oahu Visitors Bureau plans to roll out a marketing plan to tout the new Waikiki
Oahu's visitor industry, already boasting the most heavily booked hotel rooms in the state, is expected to gain from Waikiki's burgeoning renaissance, tourism officials said yesterday at an annual Oahu Visitors Bureau luncheon.
The luncheon at the Hyatt Regency in Waikiki was attended by hundreds of visitor industry members from other countries and throughout the state, illustrating Oahu's strategic importance in the state's visitor plan.
Oahu is the key to the state's tourism industry, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann told the crowd during his keynote address.
"We have 80 percent of the population and the tax base," Hannemann said. "If we do well, it certainly has a ripple effect on the rest of the state."
The Oahu Visitors Bureau is slated to roll out a three-year strategic marketing plan in January that will promote the new Waikiki, said Les Enderton, executive director of Oahu Visitors Bureau. The state continues to face intense competition from other destinations, and educating potential visitors and travel partners about what Oahu and Waikiki offer is critical, Hannemann said.
Oahu, which had taken heat for being overdeveloped and tired, has by hotel industry standards had a successful run recently. In 2005, revenue per available hotel room rose an unprecedented 21.6 percent as average daily room rates increased 16.3 percent.
"The transformation of Waikiki will not only boost Oahu, but it will bring a boost to the entire state," Enderton said.
"Right now, momentum for the new and improved Waikiki is like money in the bank. It's not going to kick up our numbers immediately, but it will maintain strong occupancy and spending for the future."
Oahu's per-person, per-day visitor spending, which averaged $173.30 through August, is up 4 percent over a strong 2005. Last year, visitors spent $5.7 billion on Oahu, supplying nearly half of the state's annual take, Enderton said.
According to the latest figures from Hospitality Advisors LLC, year-to-date hotel occupancy in Oahu is leading the rest of the state by 2.9 percentage points. Oahu's hotel occupancy from January through September was an enviable 84.7 percent, while the rest of the state filled 81.6 percent of its available hotel rooms.
While the numbers are healthy, they are expected to improve as renovations continue in Waikiki. As major investment by private and public sectors transforms the district, it should lure higher-spending visitors who are seeking upgraded accommodations, more authentic cultural experiences and new dining and retail places.
"There are wonderful changes occurring in Waikiki that will bring back repeat visitors as well as develop new markets," Enderton said.
Waikiki remains popular with baby boomers, Enderton said, but needs to focus on attracting younger customers, he said. "Waikiki offers the depth of product to do that," Enderton said.
According to a TNS Island Perception study, U.S. travelers already rate Waikiki higher for nightlife, entertainment, cuisine, shopping, special events, ease of access, cultural activities and recreational activities than they do other Hawaii destinations. The transformation of Waikiki is expected to raise these impressions to a higher level.