Deals arise as occupancy drops


POSTED: Monday, December 15, 2008

It is officially a traveler's market.

While there was a time when Hawaii's visitor industry could turn away budget travelers and gear the marketing of properties to commandeer top-dollar rates, those days are gone.





Hotel occupancy

        Occupancy rates at Hawaii hotels in October and the same month last year:



2008 2007
Statewide 67.1% 73.6%
By Island
Oahu 73.2% 74.7%
Kauai 70.6% 78.4%
Maui 61.6% 74.7%
Big Island 54.0% 65.2%

        Source: Hospitality Advisors LLC



And just a few years ago, it was hard for hoteliers to keep enough skilled workers on staff. That is still the case; however, in this economy workers are leaving jobs because softening in Hawaii's visitor industry has resulted in layoffs rather than career trade-ups.

“;It isn't pretty, and I don't see any momentum building into the first quarter,”; said Joseph Toy, president and chief executive of Hospitality Advisors LLC, which produces a monthly hotel flash report for Hawaii's visitor industry.

In the midst of a statewide hotel occupancy drop of 6.5 percentage points in October, hoteliers discounted average daily room rates the most of any other month this year, according to the most recent hotel flash report, released today by Hospitality Advisors LLC.

Only 67.1 percent of Hawaii's hotel rooms were filled in October as compared with 73.6 percent during the same period in 2007, and visitors paid an average daily rate, or ADR, of $177.41 this year, a price drop of 3.4 percent from the prior year.

This softer hotel performance reflects the 13.5 percent drop in visitor arrivals as reported by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism and of economic woes in North America and other parts of the world, Toy said.

Hawaii hotels reported decreases on all islands and class levels in occupancy, ADR and revenue per available room (RevPAR) in October, with the single exception of occupancy at budget properties, which reported a slight 0.7 percentage point increase in occupancy for October, Toy said.

Maui reported the largest occupancy decline of all the islands with a 13.1 percentage-point drop to 61.6 percent for October. Maui's resort region of Lahaina-Kaanapali-Kapalua reported the sharpest decrease in statewide occupancy with a 16.5 percentage-point decline from last year to 61.8 percent. In October the Big Island experienced the largest room-rate drop statewide. The island's ADR fell 7.2 percent to $170.24 per night. Of all the islands, Oahu fared the best in October with occupancy falling a scant 1.5 percentage points to 73.2 percent.

The state's economy properties reported the biggest drop in occupancy of 9.4 percentage points to 64.3 percent occupancy in October. Luxury properties saw the greatest decline in ADR on a class basis, dropping 4.3 percent to $249.68 for October, followed by economy properties with a 4.1 percent ADR drop to $101.18.

“;In this market you have properties reaching down and visitors trading up,”; Toy said.

Oahu's least expensive properties reported the best performance for October due in part to an increase in budget-conscious Canadian travelers staying exclusively on Oahu. For the month, occupancy at Oahu's budget properties increased 10.7 percentage points to 76.4 percent, which drove RevPAR growth of 14.1 percent in October.

Hoteliers have extended their fall bargains into the holiday season and beyond, but it is hard to gauge what kind of difference it will make, Toy said.

“;Consumer confidence is very low, and people are booking really, really late, so there isn't a real good feel for the first quarter,”; he said. “;I hope that we'll have a strong booking segment, but all destinations, especially competitors like Florida and Mexico, are heavily discounting.”;

  For December, some off-beach properties have discounted rooms to as low as $50 a night; however, intrepid kamaaina can find rates as low as $80 a night and up for branded hotels, and they will pay little more than $100 a night for on-beach properties.

“;There's never been a better time for kamaaina to travel,”; Toy said. “;They can get some pretty great rates even at luxury properties.”;

The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau and its travel trade partners and wholesalers have spent millions getting the word out that Hawaii is on sale and that there is good value in the destination, said Ed Hubennette, vice president for Marriott International.

“;I have to give a hand to John Monahan and the HVCB, the airlines and the industry for getting the word out about Hawaii's value into the marketplace,”; Hubennette said. “;Six months ago we had a huge cost-perception issue, but that isn't the case now. However, people still have to want to spend money, and frankly demand is down everywhere, not just in Hawaii.”;

It has been a challenging fall, and the first quarter is looking just as difficult, said Jack E. Richards, president and chief executive of Pleasant Holidays LLC.

“;I think that we'll see a very, very difficult first quarter, particularly since Easter is April the 12th, which means that we won't see that pickup in business until the second quarter,”; Richards said.