Tying the knot


POSTED: Thursday, October 22, 2009

Honeymoon couples are still enamored with Hawaii, but fewer of them are making a commitment to travel to the islands, according to the latest survey from The Knot, an online wedding planner.

Since the previous honeymoon survey came out in 2007, the Caribbean and Mexico have improved their market share of honeymooners, while Hawaii is down slightly, said Miriam Alexander, The Knot's vice president in charge of insights and analytics, who surveyed more than 8,000 U.S. brides.

Only 10 percent of honeymooners surveyed in 2009 chose Hawaii as opposed to 30 percent for the Caribbean, 26 percent for the U.S. mainland and 17 percent for Mexico/Baja, Alexander said. Similarly, 37 percent of Knot couples picked the Caribbean for their nuptials compared with 23 percent for Mexico/Baja and 17 percent for Hawaii, she said.

Still, 28 percent of honeymoon couples seriously considered Hawaii before deciding to go elsewhere, Alexander said.

“;There's definitely an awareness of Hawaii,”; she said. “;You've gotten the horse to water, now you just have to help it drink a little.”;

As many as 294,735 visitors, 1.6 percent more than last year, honeymooned in Hawaii through August, according to the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.

However, only 81,958 visitors through August came to get married, which represented an 11.6 percent decline in the market, DBEDT said. Couples from the U.S. West trended higher, posting a 2.5 percent year-to-date gain in those coming to honeymoon and a slightly lower drop of 11.4 percent for nuptials, DBEDT said.

Likewise, Alexander said more Knot couples came from the West Coast.

“;With the economy the way it is, generally we are skewing more west than east overall, and it makes sense that this trend would be followed by honeymooners, too,”; said Jay Talwar, senior vice president of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.

HVCB, the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the industry have spent millions in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle, Talwar said.

“;We are showing images and experiences in Hawaii that you can't see or do in the Caribbean or Mexico,”; he said.

Hawaii's uniqueness draws wedding couples, Alexander said.

“;Most who chose to come here didn't look beyond Hawaii,”; she said, but added that couples distinguished among the islands.

Sixty-two percent of honeymooners choose Maui compared with 36 percent for Oahu, 35 percent for Kauai, and 23 percent for the Big Island, Alexander said. Maui also took 42 percent of the weddings market, with Oahu capturing 33 percent and only 13 percent going to Kauai and 11 percent to the Big Island, she said.

The slumping economy and Hawaii's distance from the U.S. mainland also have impacted the market, Alexander said.

Hawaii honeymooners are visiting fewer islands, taking shorter honeymoons, booking fewer extras and participating in fewer activities, she said.

“;Over one in five couples scaled back on their honeymoon budget,”; Alexander said, adding that Hawaii couples spent $6,027 on their honeymoon compared with $4,847 for honeymooners in general.

More honeymooners want value, said Paula Simpson Takamori, owner of Travel to Paradise.

“;While honeymooners still choose to go to the resort they want, one way that the recession has affected them is that they sometimes choose to take a lower category at their preferred resort and then choose to do more self-directed touring and less activities,”; Takamori said.