Exclusive: Are Airfares Affecting Hawaii Travel?



Last week, we pointed out two notable Hawaii deals from GOGO Vacations and Pleasant Holidays. Since then, we've seen deals from Condominium Connection and Aston Hotels, as well as another deal from Pleasant.

All of which begs the question: Why are Hawaii's tour operators and hotels offering such major packages during what is normally the high season? According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority's numbers, Hawaii is seeing significantly more visitors than the same time last year, and with the new United service to Hilo, getting there is easier than ever…but maybe not, according to some industry pros we asked.

Stacy Small, president of Elite Travel International, says that high airfares to Hawaii pose a challenge for visitors, especially for families. "This is usually what happens when airfares are routinely $800+ per person (coach!)," she adds. "That said, our clients are taking advantage of some really amazing options this summer, including a free fifth night plus $500 credit at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua on Maui and 50 percent off a second room for families at the Four Seasons Hualalai. It's a great time to enjoy a lot of value in Hawaii, but the high airfares are prohibiting some clients from choosing this destination over others that are more reasonably priced and, in many cases, easier to get to."

Jason Coleman, president of the Southern California Chapter of the American Society of Travel Agents, agrees. "No one wants to pay the air fares that are currently offered for Hawaii."

Momi Akimseu of the Hawaii Tourism Authority also notes the impact of high ticket prices, and specifically points to the cost of jet fuel. "There continues to be high demand," she says, but notes that with a struggling economy and high fuel prices across the board, discretionary spending is slow. "We are also aware that there are deals in Mexico and Las Vegas," she points out.

Still, she said, the islands remain a great value for a domestic vacation. "We're seeing shorter booking windows, and we anticipate that visitor spending will remain strong."

"It’s a classic case of supply and demand,” says Joseph Fienberg, president of Condominium Connection. “There is a great deal of inventory, so rates are falling even during peak summer travel. However, these prices are yield-managed by the properties and once the hotels sell out of the lower-priced inventory ‘buckets’ they recently opened, the discount spigot will be tightened...The majority of these new specials are intended to build a stronger base as quickly as possible. We never know how long these special rates will last. Travel agents should encourage their clients to take advantage of these discounts while they’re available.”

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