Tourism sinks 19%


POSTED: Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hawaii's tourism industry took another significant hit in September as visitor arrivals in key markets across the board took a major nose dive.





Visitor arrivals

        The number of visitors arriving in Hawaii by air in September with the percentage change from the same month last year:



Domestic312,035 -22.1%
Total 450,511 -19.3%
Grand total* 461,051 -19.5%
By island
Oahu294,328 -20.6%
Kauai70,600 -29.2%
Lanai5,532 -21.6%
Maui132,477 -27.3%
Molokai4,641 -23.1%
Big Island78,826 -31.5%

        * Includes cruise visitors


Source: Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism


But September is likely the bottom for the state's leading sector since the remainder of the year is expected to be cushioned by stronger group business that will hopefully soften the blow from the crash of Wall Street, according to state Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert.

“;I think September will probably be our worst month,”; she said.

Total arrivals plunged 19.5 percent to 461,051, while expenditures fell 15.5 percent, or $141.2 million, to $770 million from a year earlier, as financial woes continue to plague the mainland and foreign countries.

U.S. West visitors declined 21.5 percent to 176,461, U.S. East tourists fell 26.2 percent to 101,019 and the Japan market was down 19.8 percent to 92,965, according to data released yesterday by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. Canadian travelers - the lone bright spot in the state's slumping tourism industry, up 7.7 percent overall for the year - dropped 6 percent to 13,468.

Some tourism executives are not as optimistic that September's downturn will be the worst of the economic fallout.

“;Until you have a quarter not worse than the same time last year, this will get worse and worse,”; said Keith Vieira, senior vice president of operations for Starwood Hotels & Resorts-Hawaii & French Polynesia. “;We think we will see more layoffs, and we think the trickle down will affect the community significantly.”;

The state's leisure and hospitality industry saw a decline of 950 jobs from August to September, while the arts, entertainment and recreation sector lost 150 jobs, according to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. In accommodations and food services, 900 jobs were cut, while full-service restaurants recorded another 300 job losses.

“;We're looking at all areas where there can be reductions, the areas becoming less profitable ... making decisions along the way of where there can be more consolidation,”; Vieira said. “;Our last choice always is going to be layoffs, but there's no question it will be impossible to get through this without layoffs.”;

Domestic arrivals by air fell 22.1 percent to 312,035, and international arrivals by air were down 12.3 percent to 138,476. However, the average daily spending was $189 per person, basically flat from September 2007. Total visitor days for air and cruise visitors declined 15.6 percent from a year ago, though the average length of stay rose 4.8 percent to nine days.

By island, Oahu's visitor count fell 20.6 percent to 294,328. The Big Island was hardest hit with a staggering 31.5 percent decline in visitors to 78,826, followed by Kauai, which saw a 29.2 percent drop to 70,600, and Maui, whose arrivals plummeted 27.3 percent to 132,477.

“;I don't see anything yet that sees our business is going to get better,”; said David Carey, president and chief executive of Outrigger Enterprises Group. “;We're just going to have to buckle up and deal with it for some time.”;

The initial effects of the significant decline in the stock market likely will be seen in November's visitor count, though group business currently on the books remains strong, Wienert said. Even more troubling are bookings for the first quarter of 2009, which hinge on what happens over the next few weeks, she said.

“;The visitor industry has seen a considerable amount of hour cutbacks as well as layoffs over the last few months,”; Wienert said. “;As we move forward, I don't believe that trend will change.”;