Visitors on track to outdo 2005
Spending especially remains strong, despite declines in visitors from Japan
Hawaii tourists arrived in record numbers in November, as the state's visitor industry remained in striking distance of breaking the all-time mark of more than 7 million arrivals reached last year.
Visitor arrivals to Hawaii edged up 1.6 percent last month to 571,552, despite a 3.7 percent slowdown in Japanese arrivals. Sustained growth from the U.S. mainland and a strong increase from Canada more than offset the decrease in Asian visitors, according to data released yesterday from the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
Still, breaking the 7 million mark for the second year in a row might be anti-climactic this time around. Through the first 11 months of the year, the state's 6.75 million arrivals edged down 0.1 percent from a year ago.
"We're pretty much on track," state Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert said. "We were forecasted to grow about 2 percent because of the removal of so many rooms for Waikiki renovations."
The number of U.S. visitors increased 3.4 percent last month to 414,765, while Canadian arrivals jumped 8.9 percent to 22,759. Japanese arrivals fell to 111,015.
While there is a chance that 2006 arrivals might not top 2005's record levels, there is no question that total visitor spending will surpass last year's, Wienert said.
Visitors stayed an average of 8.8 days last month and spent $920.3 million, boosting overall spending for the first 11 months of the year to $10.8 billion.
Last month, visitors from the U.S. West and Canada spent about 6.5 percent more than the year before; however, spending declined 0.5 percent from the U.S. East and fell a dramatic 10.5 percent from Japan.
Overall growth in visitor spending was a scant 1.8 percent last month.
Spending and arrivals seemed to plateau in November because of greater competition from emerging destinations, as well as a reduction in Waikiki hotel rooms and increases in jet fuel prices and hotel costs, Wienert said.
While November is traditionally the state's strongest wedding and honeymoon month, nuptial-related traffic fell 5.4 percent last month, she said.
"Hawaii is facing increased competition from our destinations that are trying to tap into the wedding/honeymoon market," Wienert said. "We've got our eye on these numbers."
Still, several positive trends emerged for the month, she said. First-time visitors to Hawaii, considered the greatest measure of real growth, rose 1.3 percent, she said. Cruise ship traffic, one of Hawaii's emerging tourism markets, grew 13 percent from last November, Wienert said. And the state overcame negative publicity surrounding the Oct. 15 earthquakes. Tourism on all islands except Molokai and the Big Island grew last month, she said.
"It's clear that the marketing campaigns that we have used to target these visitor markets are working," Wienert said. "The Hawaii brand is very strong."
Hotel room revenue grew by as much as 15 percent for Outrigger Enterprises Group, said Barry Wallace, vice president of hospitality services for the local hotel company.
"Overall our company is having a terrific year," Wallace said. "It's going to turn out as strong, if not stronger, than the previous one."
While occupancy at the resort has been relatively flat coming off of two record-breaking years, average daily room rates have continued to inch up, he said.
Outrigger and Ohana hotels have enjoyed sustained strength from North America but also have shown increased demand from Australia, Canada and Japan, Wallace said.
Though visitor traffic from Japan has been down across the islands, Ohana's Japan business is up by 10 to 15 percent year over year, he said.
The Dec. 18 opening of the Embassy Suites at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Walk has been well received, he said.
"We already expect to be sold out for New Year's Eve," Wallace said.
Overall, the first 11 months of 2006 have been good for Hawaii's visitor industry. Total visitor spending grew 3.3 percent to $10.9 billion during that period, and average daily spending by U.S. West, U.S. East, Japanese and Canadian visitors gained from last year, Wienert said.
While visitors from Canada increased 9.1 percent and arrivals from the U.S. West grew 3.8 percent, arrivals from the U.S. East fell 0.6 percent, and visitors from Japan declined by a worrisome 8.9 percent.
The Japan market was down in November due to higher prices and less room on planes and in hotels, but was expected to rise this month as visitors came in droves for the Honolulu Marathon, the U2 concert and to celebrate the holidays.
"December is going to be a dynamite month," Wienert said. "We had a very strong seven days filled with events, and with Christmas falling on a Monday, we'll also see lengthened holiday bookings."