Hawaii Ends Year on Positive Note; Islands Poised for a Strong 2016

Aerial view of Hawaii Island via Paradise Helicopters. // Photo by Joe Pike

Total visitor arrivals to the Hawaiian Islands in November 2015 set a new record for the month with 661,352 visitors, a 3.7 percent growth year-over-year compared to November 2014, according to preliminary statistics recently released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA). 

Until we get the December numbers, these latest figures top off what has been a very solid year for the Aloha State. But no need to mourn 2015 just yet as next year looks like it could be even better for Hawaii, especially with the return of hotel product on Lanai.

But first let's see what made Hawaii so successful this past November.


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November marked the ninth straight month total visitor arrivals have surpassed the previous monthly records. 

Visitor arrivals on airlines increased in November 2015 (up 4.5 percent to 657,603), with the balance arriving on cruise ships (down 56.4 percent to 3,749 visitors). 

Year-over-year growth in arrivals on airlines from U.S. West (up 5.1 percent to 285,638) and U.S. East (up 9.5 percent to 119,167) more than offset a decrease from Canada (down 4.8 percent to 43,197). Visitor arrivals from Japan (up 0.3 percent to 122,840) were comparable to November 2014, while arrivals from all other international markets increased for the month (up 7.3 percent to 86,761). 

“November was the latest record setting month for visitor arrivals in a string of nine consecutive record setting months," said George D. Szigeti, president and CEO of the HTA, in a written release. "What an amazing achievement for our visitor industry, especially for a mature travel destination like Hawaii coming off three consecutive record setting years."

Hawaii’s four larger islands realized growth in visitor arrivals in November compared to the year prior: Oahu (up 4.1 percent to 407,570), Maui ( up 2.8 percent to 193,355), Kauai (up 0.8 percent to 83,021), and Hawaii Island (up 0.5 percent to 107,558). 

More visitors stayed exclusively on one island this November – Maui (up 7.5 percent), Oahu (up 6.3 percent), Kauai (up 5.7 percent), and Hawaii Island (up 4.7 percent) – compared to November 2014, while fewer visitors (down 4 percent) stayed on multiple islands.

“This consistency of success signifies how compelling Hawaii’s brand is to global travelers," said Szigeti. "Hawaii’s marketing message is being well received in key markets and our industry partners deserve credit for how they have evolved their product offerings to match the diversified interests of today’s travelers.”

Looking Ahead to 2016

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is poised to have a huge 2016 in the Aloha State, as the company's first hotel in Oahu is slated to open in January, while two closed Four Seasons hotels on Lanai will back in business.

Although the news that Oahu's former JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina Resort & Spa will become the island's first Four Seasons hotel may have made a bigger splash, the Lanai news was probably more needed for Hawaii as a whole. The island, which is owned by billionaire Larry Ellison, closed all of its resorts, except the 11-room Hotel Lanai, around May. 

On Lanai, with most of the hotel rooms on the island closed for renovation, arrivals declined in August 20.3 percent while visitor expenditures were reduced by two-thirds (down 67.2 percent to $2 million) compared to August 2014, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

But you can expect those numbers to soar in 2016 as the Four Seasons Manele Bay is expected to re-open in February. When it re-opens, it will be renamed The Four Seasons Resort Lanai. The Four Seasons Lodge at Koele, which is currently housing the construction workers for the island's renovation projects, could also open in 2016. It was originally supposed to re-open in December.

Hawaii Hotel Renovations

It's not very often that you hear of a new hotel opening in Hawaii, but who needs new product when you constantly renovate your existing hotels? 

Just like 2015, next year will see a host of new hotels with new digs. Topping the list is the recently renovated Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa.

The $22 million upgrades encompassed the lobby, porte cochere, front desk registration, new interior design and furniture, lighting fixtures, water features, main ballroom and meeting space. 

Highlights include an update to the hotel's newly named Nanea Lobby, porte cochere, front desk registration, new interior design and furniture, lighting fixtures, water features, main ballroom and meeting and events spaces. 

Visit www.gohawaii.com and keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for all the latest Hawaii news. Be sure to follow Travel Agent's Joe Pike on Twitter @TravelPike.

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