Tourist turnaround


POSTED: Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Positive factors helped boost all of Hawaii's major visitor markets for the first time in 19 months; however, industry watchers say that September's strong finish might not continue.

A rise in arrivals from the U.S. West for the fifth consecutive month, as well as holiday and convention traffic, contributed to the 7.2 percent increase in overall visitor arrivals, which rose to 494,376 in September, according to preliminary statistics released yesterday by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Results contrasted with the year-ago 19.5 percent decline in arrivals experienced by the visitor industry after the financial markets collapsed.

Although Canada was flat, Hawaii saw strong September arrivals from all other major markets, including the U.S. West, U.S. East and Japan, the HTA said. Growth from Hawaii's major markets helped counteract a drop in traffic from cruise passengers and all other markets, the agency reported.

“;The last time all four major markets were positive in monthly arrivals was February 2008,”; said Daniel K. Nahoopii of HTA's tourism research division.

Increased traffic from marketing targets like Los Angeles; San Francisco; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle grew U.S. West arrivals by 10.1 percent, said Mike McCartney, the HTA's president and chief executive officer.





        The monthly total arrivals and percentage change in visitors to Hawaii:















































































YTD total4,940,535-5.8%



Year total6,806,622-10.8%



Source: Hawaii Tourism Authority


“;There's no question in my mind that the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau campaigns in Los Angeles and other West Coast cities were very effective,”; said Jack Richards, president of California-based Pleasant Holidays LLC, Hawaii's largest travel wholesaler.


Hawaii also benefited from Mexico's continued problems with drug cartels and the H1N1 swine flu, Richards said.

Likewise, aggressive marketing in Japan and the “;Silver Week”; national holidays increased arrivals in that market by 16.7 percent to 110,634, McCartney said.

U.S. East arrivals grew 6.9 percent, the first increase from this region since February 2008, as conventions like the American Dental Association Convention helped increase business travel by 140.6 percent over last September, he said.

“;From our perspective out of the last 90 days, we've seen a steady increase in travel to Hawaii,”; Richards said.

While the gain in arrivals was good news for Hawaii last month, October arrivals are projected to flatten and November's could worsen, said state Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert.

“;It was an anomaly,”; Wienert said. “;All of the positives were in place in September.”;

Hawaii's visitor industry benefited from increased arrivals, which muted spending losses, she said.

“;That helps immensely overall, but it's not a long-term strategy,”; she said. “;Our destination was never built on pure volume.”;

September's visitor expenditures were $737.1 million, a drop of $22.7 million, or 3 percent, compared with the prior year. However, there were wider declines in per-person-per-day spending, Nahoopii said.

Per-person-per-day expenditures from Japan fell 12.9 percent, while the U.S. West dropped 12.6 percent; Canada, 6.5 percent; and the U.S. East, 6.1 percent, he said.

“;In an effort to remain competitive in the short term, Hawaii's visitor industry was forced to re-evaluate and reposition its product offerings, which often resulted in the reduction of rates,”; McCartney said.

;[Preview]  More Good News For Hawaii's Tourism Industry

Visitor arrivals to the islands were up for the third month in a row.

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Still, Starwood Hotels & Resorts saw a few of its Waikiki hotels beat last September's revenue per available room, said Keith Vieira, senior vice president of operations for Starwood Hotels and Resorts in Hawaii and French Polynesia.

“;It was a decent September and October, but we don't think it's a trend yet,”; Vieira said. “;Starwood saw some rebounding in Waikiki, but it hasn't made its way to the neighbor islands.”;

Without major citywide conventions on the horizon, it is doubtful that September's increases will continue, Vieira said.

“;We still have plenty of availability for the holidays,”; he said.