Advertisement - Click to support our sponsors.

Friday, March 31, 2000

give Hawaii’s
tourism a big,
hearty boost

Although Japan visitors were
fewer in February, the tourist totals
were up and they stayed longer

By Russ Lynch


Travelers from the mainland flooded into Hawaii in February, boosting overall arrivals 4.2 percent from a year ago, state figures released today show.

Art The increase came despite a 2.1 percent drop in Japanese arrivals from February 1999, which brought the international arrivals down 0.7 percent last month. But there were 7.5 percent more tourists from the mainland, more than compensating for the dip in Japanese travel, according to the figures.

And tourists overall stayed a little longer, which is good news for the tourism industry and the economy because it means visitors have more time to spend money. The state's "visitor days" statistic, which multiplies the number of tourists times the average length of time, was up 7.1 percent last month from February 1999.

Tourist industry executives said there appears to be a definite turnaround with strong March business following on the heels of February's growth and future bookings also looking good.

"January was a little slow," said Ken Phillips, a spokesman for California-based tour packager Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays. January traffic was a little behind last year's, he said, although 1999 had set records so the decline wasn't that bad.

"February was pretty much even" with a strong February 1999, he said.

"March, April and May are going to be record months," said Phillips, whose company brings more mainland tourists to Hawaii than any other.

"We're shooting for a 15-to-20 percent increase for the year. Last year was up 25 percent," he said.

Although the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism figures show a February drop in business from Japan, one major airline serving the Japan-Hawaii market, Japan Airlines, said its business improved.

JAL Hawaii traffic for the fiscal year to date, April through February, is up 3 percent, said Gilbert Kimura, regional sales manager in Honolulu.

"It's a pure up, because within one year we didn't have any new service," he said.

In other words, passenger traffic increased while the number of available seats remained the same.

"Our February figures look good, about 110 percent of last February," he said.

Kimura said there was a significant drop-off in travel from Japan over New Year's, traditionally one of the busiest times for Japanese tourism. That was because of Y2K concerns but also because the Japanese are getting to be smarter travelers, dodging around the crowded, high-priced holiday periods such as New Year's and Golden Week in April-May.

"People are wising up, trying to avoid the busy times and coming in the off-season," Kimura said. JAL's bookings are more consistent year-round than they used to be, with most of the peaks and valleys leveled off, he said.

DBEDT said 580,334 people visited the islands last month, up from 557,139 in February 1999. Arrivals on domestic flights totaled 356,375 last month, up from 331,599 a year earlier. Arrivals on international flights totaled 223,959, compared with 225,540 a year ago.

The department, which this year dropped the traditional eastbound and westbound counting system, said 320,600 of the arrivals from domestic flights were U.S. residents, an 8.6 percent increase, and the rest were foreigners. The average length of stay rose 2.8 percent to 9.1 days, compared with an average of 8.85 days in February 1999.

That brought total visitor days to 5.28 million, up from 4.93 million a year ago.

Japan produced 156,388 visitors last month, down 2.1 percent from 159,685 in the year-earlier month, according to the DBEDT figures.

Except for a decline of half a percentage point on Molokai and a drop of 46.9 percent on Lanai, all the neighbor islands showed increases, and Oahu tourist traffic was up 1.5 percent. DBEDT cautioned that it samples only a small percentage of the Molokai and Lanai tourists.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2000 Honolulu Star-Bulletin