Visitor arrivals close
to hitting record

Increased airlift to Hawaii from the state's core markets could help elevate performance of the visitor industry to the best on record.


"We're really close to achieving a record-setting year," said state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert.

Airlift from the higher-spending eastern United States has increased 33.9 percent so far this year. The number of airplane seats is up 5.8 percent from the western United States, and despite a slow start to the year, airlift from Japan rose 2.9 percent, said Chris Kam, director of market trends for the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau.

During the first 11 months of this year, the airline industry added 554,000 seats to Hawaii's visitor market, to about 9.5 million, far surpassing the 490,000 seats that were added for all of 2003, Kam said.

"Adding seats in all of our markets has definitely boosted performance," Kam said. "The results are particularly impressive when you consider that the additional seats have come at a time when the airline industry has continued to experience a great deal of turbulence."

While more seats on planes helped boost visitor arrivals to the highest level ever for November, the addition of three routes this month could give the state the push it needs to reach a record 7 million visitor arrivals by year end.

Starting this month, Northwest Airlines added a daily flight from Portland to Honolulu, Delta added a second daily flight from Atlanta to Honolulu and United began a daily route from Chicago to Kahului, Maui, with service to Kona on the Big Island, Kam said.

Continental also launched a daily flight from Nagoya, Japan, he said.

"The new flights have the potential to bring an additional 14,000 visitors from the domestic market and 2,600 from Japan in December," Kam said.

Despite the additional airlift, seats on planes have still been hard to find this holiday season, said Ken Phillips, staff vice president for Pleasant Holidays LLC, Hawaii's largest package operator.

Business from the mainland is up 10 percent this season, and tour operators are turning away customers because there are few seats left on planes bound for Hawaii, Phillips said.

"This is a better year than the last three," Phillips said. "There may still be a few hotel rooms, but all the airline seats are used."

While airlift to the islands rose 2.6 percent from 2002 to 2003, according to the annual Visitor Research Report released yesterday by the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, airlift to the islands increased 10.5 percent in November and has increased 8 percent for the year, Wienert said.

"It's really boosted our domestic market," Wienert said.

As demand for Hawaii has risen, the airlines have responded by allocating more routes, Wienert said.

"Despite rising fuel costs, their routes have remained profitable," she said. "And it's clear from the number of flights that they've added that they believe in the destination."

Total visitor arrivals for November 2004 rose 5 percent to 526,661 from a year earlier, according to data released yesterday by the state.

Contributing to the increase was a 7.6 rise in domestic arrivals to a November high of 365,495 visitors. International visitor arrivals fell 0.4 percent. Japanese arrivals declined 0.8 percent while Canadian arrivals rose 6.3 percent.

Total visitor expenditures grew 2.7 percent to $795.4 million for November and increased 5.6 percent to $9.3 billion for the year to date. Through the end of November, 6.29 million visitors had arrived in the state.

"This exceptional growth was stimulated by strong arrival increases from all nine regions of the mainland U.S., aided by greater air seat capacity to the islands," Wienert said.

The forecast for airlift to Hawaii in 2005 looks promising, too.

Northwest plans to launch a seasonal flight from Anchorage to Kahului with through service to Honolulu between February and April, Kam said. Delta also announced a new service from Salt Lake City to Kahului beginning in May, he said.

Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau

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