Visitors Bureau celebrates 10 years
The executive director expects Oahu to hold onto its tourism market share into next year
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Tourism officials say Oahu's visitor numbers and revenue aren't has high as they should be, but are looking for moderate gains as the industry moves into 2008.
And as they marked the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Oahu Visitors Bureau yesterday, officials noted that the island still accounts for nearly half of the visitor dollars brought into the state.
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Oahu's visitor industry, which year to date has been responsible for nearly half of all the visitor dollars brought into Hawaii, is expected to post moderate gains as it moves into 2008.
Honolulu's travel industry professionals, Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann gathered yesterday at a luncheon to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Oahu Visitors Bureau.
"In 1997, our tourism market share was eroding and our tourism product was perceived as very tired and less than inviting," said Les Enderton, executive director of the Oahu Visitor's Bureau.
When the bureau began, Oahu's visitor counts from its top North American market had fallen to 2.3 million from 3.2 million in 1990, Enderton said. The industry's first reaction -- discounting -- didn't bolster tourism numbers, and it became clear that the product had to be improved, he said.
This year, Oahu's visitor industry unveiled billions of dollars in Waikiki renovation projects, with more under way, and the state is in the midst of a three-year campaign to encourage visitors to check out the improvements.
Still, Hannemann said the state needs to work to ensure that it continues to get federal support for infrastructure improvements. Hawaii also needs to continue to petition lawmakers for initiatives that ease access for international visitors, he said.
International travel to the United States is expected to finish out 2007 with a projected 5.1 percent increase, with a forecast 3.7 percent rise in 2008 to 55.6 million visitors, according to the statistics released yesterday by the Travel Industry Association.
However, in Hawaii, tourism from Japan is still down 4.6 percent year-to-date, Enderton said. Overseas travelers from Japan represent Hawaii's top per-person-per-day spending market.
"2007 has been a good, not a great year," Enderton said. "Revenue and numbers are not as high as they should be."
Still, Enderton said he expects Oahu to hold onto market share as it moves into 2008.
While Oahu has posted tourism gains in 2007, it's critical that the state's visitor industry continue to push the destination forward, said John Monahan, president and chief executive officer of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.
"We are probably facing a greater competitive challenge from other destinations than ever before," Monahan said.