Hawaii visitor
increases slightly

A state survey shows
more discontent with
hotels and restaurants

While more Hawaii tourists are paying higher prices for their stay than before, fewer say they are as satisfied with the experience, according to preliminary results of a new study.

The survey by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism found that visitor satisfaction has dropped slightly in all of the state's major visitor markets and that there's been a similar increase in the number of visitors who described their experience as below average, said state economist Pearl Imada Iboshi.

"The results are a concern for the state because we haven't seen a drop in satisfaction since 2001," said Imada Iboshi, who presented the results yesterday to members of Hawaii's visitor industry.


According to the study, U.S. visitors were more dissatisfied with the quality of Hawaii's hotels and restaurants than in the past. Japanese visitors who were dissatisfied said they based their rating on the quality of restaurants and their experience at the airport and with transportation.

The number of past U.S. visitors to Hawaii who said that they wanted to try a destination other than Hawaii rose 18.2 percentage points from 2003 to 2004. The number of previous Japanese visitors who wanted to try another destination increased 39.4 percentage points, according to DBEDT data.

A state tourism official said the study had positive results as well.

"This is not a 'Chicken Little' story. If you take a look at the numbers, most of them are very good," said Frank Haas, marketing director for the state Hawaii Tourism Authority.

More than 65 percent of U.S. visitors and about half of tourists from Japan rated their satisfaction as excellent, the study said.

Year-end results from a similar study by TNS Plog Research found that visitor perception was down a little bit in the eastern United States, dead even in the U.S. West and virtually unchanged from Japan, he said.

Study results might be based on Hawaii's changing visitor base, which includes more U.S. East visitors as well as a large percentage of repeat visitors who have a "been there, done that, got the T-shirt attitude," Haas said.

Demand for Hawaii also has resulted in higher prices at hotels and other attractions, which has prompted increased visitor expectations, Haas said.

"We could be delivering the same level of service, but if our visitors are paying higher prices they might be expecting more," Haas said.

Satisfying customers is getting more difficult because of higher expectations, said Keith Vieira, senior vice president and director of operations at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. in Hawaii and French Polynesia.

"I think people are more educated about travel options," Vieira said. "I don't think we have a concern that we are losing ground in Hawaii, but the visitor industry has to be aware that we have to continually work to keep that ground."

Business, Economic Development & Tourism

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