Golden Week travel to Hawaii drops again
Hawaii travel slumped during the Japanese holidays, JAL reports
More Japanese were traveling during this year's Golden Week holidays, but reports on bookings show that not as many of them were coming to Hawaii, where the challenges of hotel accommodations and prices were likely a deterrent.
Golden Week has long been a popular travel period for Japanese, because it allows would-be travelers to capitalize on precious vacation time. Overall, both Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways reported gains this year.
But JAL reported traffic to Hawaii in this year's Golden Week, which ran from April 28 to May 6, was 8.6 percent below last year.
Higher room rates, fuel surcharges and departure taxes as well as difficulty getting air seats and hotel rooms appear to be holding back demand.
Officials are pinning their hopes on a rebound once the current wave of Waikiki renovations is complete.
Golden Week was anything but for Hawaii's Japan tourism operators this year: Booking reports show that demand for the islands dropped again.
Golden Week, which ran from April 28 to May 6 this year, has long been a popular travel period for the Japanese market because it strings three public holidays close to a weekend, allowing travelers to capitalize on vacation time.
Overall, Japan Airlines Corp. had a 2.3 percent increase in Golden Week traffic, while competitor All Nippon Airways Co. saw an increase of 4.6 percent to all destinations, the carriers said.
But JAL, which had cut back 4.5 percent on its Hawaii seat capacity for this year's Golden Week, reported an 8.6 percent decline in traffic to the islands during the period.
Hawaii's ability to capitalize on Golden Week has been untermined by higher room rates, fuel surcharges and departure taxes as well as difficulty getting air seats and finding hotel room vacancies.
"We knew it wasn't going to be as robust, and we expected the drop," said State Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert.
Jalpak, Hawaii's top package tour operator for the Japan market, reported a 2 percent decline in package sales and a 10 percent reduction in group travel during this period.
While the decline was less than last year's 11.6 drop in Golden Week visitor traffic, the continued softening is still worrisome to the industry, said Akio Hoshino, senior vice president for Jalpak International Hawaii.
Rising fuel surcharges and airport departure taxes, which have run as high as $200 per person, have also had an impact on travel, especially during more expensive times, Wienert said.
Though rising prices and a shortage of space have likely had an impact on the Japan market during Golden Week, state tourism officials have said that it's becoming more common to see Japan tourism to Hawaii spread throughout the year.
"A high percent of visitors from Japan, 55 percent, are repeat visitors, so they are very attuned to price fluctuations," Wienert. "They've been coming here for years so they might not choose to come at a time when they know that prices will be higher."
Most retailers and hoteliers say Golden Week traffic has been on the decline for as long as seven years.
At the same time Hawaii is becoming more costly and less available to Japanese tourists, other competitive destinations are emerging.
Hawaii is experiencing greater competition from rebounding tourism destinations in Okinawa, China and South East Asia, Hoshino said.
And while the Japanese economy has been improving, consumers still are curbing their purchasing, Hoshino said.
"Consumers in the Japanese market place are very price conscious and they are choosing closer destinations and shorter and cheaper tours," he said.
During this year's Golden Week period, JAL reported a 17.7 percent increase in travel to South Korea, an 11.3 percent increase in travel to China, an 11 percent increase in travel to Guam and a 3.9 percent increase to South East Asia. JAL also reported that South Korea, South East Asia and China also welcomed more total Japan visitors during Golden Week than Hawaii.
Hoshino said that once Waikiki's revitalization is complete, he anticipates Japan travel to Hawaii will rebound.
"Once Waikiki is in good condition, there might be a big chance for us," he said.
Wienert said Hawaii marketers have not yet begun their big marketing push to showcase Waikiki in Japan. The campaign is awaiting completion of the current wave of renovation, she said.
Not all the Golden Week news was bad. Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, a popular choice among Japan visitors, said yesterday it actually posted a slight increase over the last year Golden Week results.
"Considering that that we had been down about 5 percent all year, we did better than we were anticipating," said Keith Vieira a senior vice president for Starwood. "All of our hotels had a couple of sold-out days."