Thursday, April 29, 1999

Visitors to Hawaii
increase for second
straight month

Hotel occupancy edged up to
76 percent in March, a survey shows

By Russ Lynch


An ongoing boom in travel from the mainland pushed Hawaii tourist arrivals up in March for the second straight month, despite a drop in visitors from Asia, according to state figures released today.

Hawaii's visitor count rose to 608,130 arrivals last month, up 2.9 percent from 590,950 in March 1998, said the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.


Arrivals from Japan and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region were down 8.2 percent, for a total of 196,450 vs. 214,030 in March 1998, but westbound arrivals from the mainland, Canada and Europe were up 9.2 percent at 411,680, compared with 376,920 a year ago.

"This is good news for Hawaii," said Seiji Naya, DBEDT director. "These visitor arrival numbers reflect the different economic situations in the westbound and eastbound markets."

Westbound visitors made up 67.7 percent of Hawaii's tourist total last month, up from 63.8 percent in the year-earlier month. A slightly higher average length of stay, 8.47 days last month compared with 8.41 days, worked with the increase in total visitors to create a 3.7 percent increase in visitor days, the number of visitors times the length of stay. The industry looks at visitor days because it reflects tourist spending in the local economy -- that is, the longer they stay, the more chances they have to spend money.

The number of airline seats coming in from the mainland was up last month, reflecting the strong westbound tourist business and a new Los Angeles-Maui service by Hawaiian Airlines Inc. But dwindling business from Asia pulled eastbound seats down sharply, resulting in an overall decrease. The total of 748,086 inbound seats last month was down 3.8 percent from 777,450 in March 1998. Westbound seats were up 3.1 percent but eastbound seats were down 14 percent.

Among the individual islands, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island showed higher visitor arrivals than in the year-earlier month, while Oahu, Molokai and Lanai were down, DBEDT said.

The state also said the number of visitors coming to Hawaii by cruise ships rose 102.8 percent, to 3,580 on four ships last month vs. 1,765 on three ships a year earlier.

For the first time DBEDT reported hotel occupancy as well as tourist arrivals, the result of a new contract with the survey firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP and Smith Travel Research. The figures were similar to those reported a week ago by another survey firm, PKF-Hawaii Inc., showing occupancy up slightly and a lower statewide average room rate than in March 1998. The DBEDT figures showed a statewide average occupancy of 76 percent, up from 75.6 percent in March 1998. The average room rate of $132.50 was down 2.6 percent from $135.98 a year ago.

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