After years of steady growth, Hawaii's visitor industry may be sitting
pretty, but it's taking nothing for granted. In moves that are good news for
travel agents and their clients, both the government and the visitor industry
continue to spend serious money on improving the destination, and on marketing
it to potential travelers.
The consensus among industry members with whom Travel Agent
spoke is that Hawaii
is in the position of cementing its strong tallies and is able to focus on its
strategic goal of attracting travelers inclined to spend what is needed for a
vacation that encompasses a number of optional activities and other diversions.
"We're entering uncharted waters—record upon
record," says John Monahan, president and CEO of the Hawaii Visitors and
Convention Bureau, which markets Hawaii to the
rest of the United States.
"We've been very fortunate over the last two years to
see our visitor industry excel," notes Marsha Wienert, the state's tourism
liaison. "We're looking for continued growth from both visitors coming for
land-based as well as cruise vacations."
The Hawaii Tourism Authority, which oversees Hawaii's global
marketing, is anticipating that 2007 will bring a modest uptick in overall
arrivals, ranging from flat to 2 percent, says Frank Haas, director of tourism
Among domestic travelers, the outlook is similar, though the
authority is targeting modest growth among travelers from east of the Rockies. It continues to see this source market as
providing a relatively higher percentage of first-time visitors who tend to
Monahan notes that airlift plays a role in the rate of
arrivals. "We continue to get strong increases from the U.S. West but
we've had some decreases from the U.S. East," he says, referring to air
capacity. "But that's coming off record lift in 2005, and there had to be
some correction," Monahan adds.
Also a factor, observes Wienert, is the state's finite
capacity of rooms, a point also made by several wholesalers.
For its part, the state is forecasting a slight increase of
2 percent in domestic arrivals in 2007, says state economist Pearl Imada
Iboshi. The state also is expecting to see visitors' spending increase at a
faster rate than arrivals, with spending pegged to grow by 6 percent this year
and 5.5 percent in 2008.
This of course means that each arriving traveler's stay will
prove more lucrative, a situation that will be beneficial both to the
destination and the travel professionals who book their stays.
"The destination as a whole is covered very well by our
partners, so we continue to focus more on key segments including romance,
active visitors, golfers, people who will get out and engage in the
destination," Monahan says.
"We have to not only attract the more experiential
customer, but we also need to attract more first-timers who haven't taken the
plunge to come to Hawaii,"
Monahan adds. He notes that Hawaii's repeat market is very loyal, with
travelers who live west of the Rockies having made the trip to Hawaii an
average of seven times.
The key with these travelers, according to Monahan and
others in various industry segments, is ensuring that they're up to speed on
the expanding variety of things to see and do on the islands.
message of providing lots of activities, more to come back for, and a unique
culture and history complements the state's long-term reputation as a beach
destination with beautiful scenery, Haas says.
"What we're ending up with is travelers with a more
robust understanding of what the destination has to offer," he explains.
"It's easier for the travel agent to counter arguments that Hawaii is just like
another place. What agents need to do in order to sell effectively is to tell
their clients that if they want a Hawaii
experience, they have to come here to get it."
Haas says that this uniqueness is the foundation of Hawaii's competitive
advantage—and its allure is being reinforced by travelers who have become more
adventuresome and are seeking out singular elements and experiences.
"Part of it comes from the customer," Haas
explains. "They're more sophisticated and adventurous, finding little arts
communities like Holualoa on the BigIsland, adventures like the zip lines, unique water
activities like irrigation rafting on Kauai and vanilla and goat farms on Maui. Lots of these things have been here all along and
travelers are just becoming more adventuresome and seeking them out."
Wienert suggests that retailers looking to grow the Hawaii segment of their business thoroughly understand
the niche products Hawaii
has and look to clients whose interests match them.
Dottie Bellanca of Richmond, VA-based Travel Agents International
has noticed an increase in interest among new and repeat clients in Hawaii cruises. She says
she's hoping for an uptick in Hawaii
bookings this year following a bit of softness in 2006 compared with 2005.
The longtime Hawaii
specialist knows for herself the breadth and depth of things to see and do in Hawaii and says spreading the word in the marketplace can
only benefit both Hawaii
and the retail community. "People need to constantly be aware there are
new things," she says. "More and more," she says of travelers
from the East Coast, "they're finding out what they're missing if they
don't go west."
Waikiki has been grabbing its share of headlines with the
multimillion-dollar upgrades to lodging, shopping and dining taking place at
Waikiki Beach Walk and the neighboring RoyalHawaiianShopping Center and
Waikiki Parc, among others. Significant upgrading continues at the Outrigger
Reef. And details are expected this year about plans for the Starwood
properties in Waikiki.
However, changes and improvements have been taking place
throughout the state, including significant upgrades on Lanai, where the Four
Seasons flag now flies at ManeleBay and the Lodge at
Koele. On Kauai, investors are breathing new
life into a mixed-use project at Kauai Lagoons and plans are in the works for
improvements at Princeville.
Quiet Molokai also is
grabbing its share of headlines because of plans to upgrade and reopen the
Kaluakoi hotel, which has been closed for several years. The list of hotels on Maui wrapping up renovations and upgrades includes the
Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea and the Hyatt Regency Maui; significant work
is also on tap at the Royal Lahaina. Farther north, owner MauiLand
and Pine has been elevating its already upscale Kapalua Resort. In the
meantime, on the BigIsland, Prince Resorts
Hawaii has plans for the renovation and reopening of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel,
and other projects are in the works.
Business Is Good
has been experiencing relatively shorter booking windows since 9/11, says
Joseph Toy, president and CEO of Hospitality Advisors. This increases the
difficulty of predicting where the market is headed, he notes. "Although
the three-month horizon has [sometimes] looked soft," he adds, "we
have been able to manage inventory such that we fill rooms a month out. With
these sellouts, we begin to see a lengthening of the booking window.
"All things being equal, everything that I've read
points to a softening and a soft landing," Toy says. "Given the
compression of supply, we still should maintain fairly strong rates, but we may
not see the phenomenal double-digit rate [increases] we've seen in the
Operator Creative Leisure International expects to see its Hawaii business grow in
2007 and 2008 the way it did in 2006, says Dean Johnson, senior vice president
of product development. He adds that the company has had big increases in
bookings from the Midwest and East Coast
"The average spending per traveler has continued to
increase for Creative Leisure in 2006 and is continuing to increase for 2007,
outpacing rate inflation," Johnson says. "My concern is that Hawaii is approaching a
point where price is beginning to cause some travelers to choose other
destinations. This fall, when the pace of growth in the market began to slow, Hawaii fell behind other destinations such as Mexico and the Caribbean
in responding with value-added promotions."
Rick Garrett, president of wholesaler Happy Vacations, says
that with Hawaii's
finite room supply and high occupancy levels, he expects 2007 to be pretty much
a carbon copy of 2006. "Hawaii
is already among the most expensive destinations, and the majority of our
clients are staying in four-star-plus accommodations," Garrett says.
"Those places are raising their rates commensurate to demand, and so the
spending per traveler necessarily goes up and up. Of course, as they say, trees
don't grow to the sky, so there has to be a limit, and I suspect we'll find it
Amy Terada, vice president of marketing at Pleasant
Holidays, says the wholesaler's deluxe and luxury bookings continue to show the
greatest pace of increase, and its sales of activities are trending upward, as
well. She says Pleasant's outlook is positive, and notes the company's return
to the Hawaii cruise market with inclusion of
sailings on the three NCL vessels serving Hawaii.
Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau General: www.gohawaii.com (with links to the various island chapters)
Agent-specific: agents.gohawaii.com (this password-protected site includes information and tools for agents)