STAR-BULLETIN / DECEMBER 2005
A portion of Waikiki is the 29th most popular place to celebrate New Year's Eve, according to bookings on Priceline.com. A woman and her dog take a late afternoon walk along the sidewalk near the Natatorium.
Aloha to the New Year
Several spots in the state are on Priceline.com's top 50 places to celebrate 2007
HAWAII may not rank with the Las Vegas Strip and New York City's Times Square as a spot to ring in the new year, but Oahu and Maui appear five times on Priceline.com's top 50 list of the world's most popular New Year's Eve destinations.
Local tourism officials say they see plenty of demand as 2006 draws to a close.
"It's so busy that I've had friends call to see if I could help them find rooms and I've been unsuccessful," said Frank Haas, marketing director for the Hawaii Tourism Authority. "Just about everything is booked."
WHERE TO CELEBRATE
Top New Year's party destinations:
1.Las Vegas Strip
2.New York SoHo/Financial District
4.Orlando, Universal Studios/Sea World
5.New York Midtown West/Times Square
The Las Vegas Strip is the most popular spot for New Year's Eve on the Priceline.com top 50 list.
Oahu might be considered Hawaii's most likely spot for nightlife seekers, but it was topped by several Maui regions on the Priceline.com list, including Kihei, which ranked No. 19; Wailea/Makena, which ranked No. 20; and Kaanapali/Lahaina, which ranked No. 27.
A portion of Waikiki on Oahu came in at No. 29, while Maui's Kahului, at No. 39, rounded out the list. Priceline.com compiled the list from a sampling of more than 30,000 hotel booking requests made by its customers for the evening of Dec. 31.
Several other locations made the list, including London, Paris and Sydney, Australia.
In addition to Las Vegas, a couple of other mainland destinations showed strong popularity for ringing in the new year. Florida destinations took 15 of the top 50 spots on the list, the most of any state. New York City took four spots in the top 10.
Traditional parade and New Year's Eve celebration sites scored well on the list. New York's Midtown West, home to Times Square, was No. 5. Philadelphia, with its Mummers Parade, ranked No. 28. New Orleans' French Quarter came in at No. 31.
Haas said the Christmas/New Year period is typically the second-busiest time of the year for Hawaii tourism, next to summertime, and so far, this year is no exception.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts, sponsor of the holiday Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, has been booked up for weeks, said Keith Vieira, senior vice president of Starwood for Hawaii and French Polynesia.
"Our results are about the same as they were last year, but that's good. Last year was a very good year," he said.
Even though the pace of bookings at newer properties tends to be slower, the Embassy Suites in Waikiki already has sold out for New Year's Eve, said Barry Wallace, vice president of hospitality services for hotel company Outrigger Enterprises Group.
"New Year's Eve is likely to be our first sellout day at the Embassy Suites, but advance bookings are quite positive through 2007, Wallace said. Embassy Suites opened at the Outrigger Beach Walk on Dec. 18.
Holiday traffic from Japan is also expected to pick up for the New Year's holiday. Japan celebrated the Emperor's Birthday on Dec. 23, and most Japanese offices will be closed Dec. 30 to Jan. 3 to usher in the New Year, according to PacRim Marketing. The Japanese also will celebrate Coming of Age Day on Jan. 8.
"This is the time of year when most Japanese workers get bonuses and time off so it's always a popular time for them to travel to Hawaii," Haas said.
While it's hard to forecast how many Japanese travelers will choose Hawaii during their New Year's break, the islands have been reported to be one of the more popular destinations this year, said Kiyoko Tanji, the general manager of Hawaii Tourism Japan.
"We're expecting travel to be slightly better this year than it was last year," Tanji said.