Mike Ocepek, doorman at the Sheraton Moana Surfrider hotel, greets arriving guests. Statewide hotel occupancy in August was at 83.6 percent, the highest since 1990.

Tourism growth
in isles remains
strong in August

Hawaii tourist arrivals closed the peak summer season strongly in August, but the pace of growth slowed compared with preceding months because it became harder to book flights and hotel rooms in the state's booming visitor industry.


Visitor spending also slipped compared with August 2003 as tourists stayed here for less time last month.

"When (hotel) occupancy rates get into the 80th and 90th percentiles, air seats and hotel rooms aren't as easy to pin down. But obviously we want a strong industry and certainly saw that again in August," said Stan Brown, Marriott International's vice president for the Pacific and Japan.

Statewide hotel occupancy hit 83.6 percent during August, the highest since 1990, according to data released last night by Hospitality Advisors LLC. The rate was up 0.7 percentage points. The average daily rate for a room rose 6.7 percent to $160.66.

"The high occupancy primarily reflects the diminishing hotel supply due to time-share and condominium conversions," the company said in its monthly survey.

The number of domestic visitors arriving by air hit an August record of 459,561, a seventh straight monthly record, and a gain of 2 percent from August 2003, according to figures released yesterday by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Total arrivals reached 645,543, an increase of 2.9 percent from last year.

The number of international visitors grew 5.4 percent to 185,982 as the Japanese market continued to recover from last year's SARS scare. Japanese arrivals grew 6.6 percent year-on-year to 142,042.

The August arrival figures grew by smaller margins than those seen during the spring and early in the summer.

One reason was that visitor numbers in August 2003 had begun to stabilize following SARS and the Iraq war, state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert said.

"The contrast isn't as stark as it once was," she said.

August saw an across-the-board drop in length of stay, with visitors averaging about nine days in the islands, a 4.9 percent decline.

This was due to earlier start times at many schools and colleges across the United States, Brown said, which left travelers with less time for vacation this year.

Wienert said a national trend toward shorter, more frequent trips could also be to blame.

Visitor spending, which is closely related to the length of trips, dipped 3.7 percent to $919.8 million in August, mainly due to a 12.8 percent drop in spending by visitors from the western United States, the state's largest source of tourists.

Japanese visitors continued to spend the most per person, averaging $214 a day. U.S. East visitors, one of the state's fastest-growing markets, were next at $171 a head.

Another factor hurting spending was that visitors attending conventions and corporate meetings declined 39.9 percent last month, partly because several large business gatherings were held in August 2003, Wienert said.

The larger honeymoon and marriage segments did well, growing 11.6 percent and 14.3 percent last month, respectively.

The state has targeted some of its marketing on those segments.

"We're starting to reap the rewards," Wienert said.

Of the different islands, Oahu performed best by growing its visitor count 4.1 percent to 412, 984. Arrivals on the other major islands stayed largely flat because of a lack of ample hotel rooms and airline seats, Wienert said.



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