Visitors pack hotels

State occupancy levels hit 80.9%
last quarter to lead the nation

Hawaii's visitor industry rebounded dramatically during the first quarter to lead the nation in hotel occupancy, and experts have forecast a positive economic outlook for summer.


Driven by record-breaking visitor arrivals and a rebounding Japanese market, occupancy at Hawaii hotels increased 5.6 percent statewide to finish the quarter with an 80.9 percent rate, outperforming hotels in the nation's top 25 markets, according to the latest data from PKF Hawaii.

The year started with a statewide increase of 3.7 percent in January from the same period a year ago. In February, occupancy increased 5.8 percent over February 2003 -- the highest result for any month since February 2001. Occupancy performance for March continued the trend, rising 7.9 percent to 82.4.

"The months of February and March, historically, are the first peak in the visitor-industry cycle. Such a substantial increase provides an optimistic outlook for the coming months," said Daisy Aio, PKF Hawaii director of tourism.

All islands posted year-over-year quarterly increases. Kauai, with a 13.7 percent increase in occupancy, led the state with the strongest performance over the first quarter of 2003, while Molokai followed with a 9.4 percent gain. The Big Island registered a 5.9 percent increase and Maui showed a 5.7 percent increase. Oahu followed with a gain of 4.4 percent.

Hotel average daily room rates also rose 3.6 percent during the first quarter, a result of significant increases for all islands. The Big Island posted an 8.1 percent increase; Molokai prices rose by 5.3 percent; Kauai by 4.1 percent; Oahu by 3.6 percent; and Maui by 2.6 percent.

Hotel executives said they expect continued good news in the months ahead.

"We'll see continued strength moving into summer," said David Carey, president and chief executive officer of Outrigger Enterprises Inc. "June bookings are softer than we would have liked, but it's getting stronger."

Improved economic conditions and the perception that Hawaii is a safe place to visit may drive Americans -- who put off travel last year -- to satisfy their pent-up vacation plans with a trip to paradise, he said.


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