Rival tourism locales battle Hawaii on price

Beach at Cancun, Mexico
Beach at Cancun, Mexico

By Howard Dicus - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Beach destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean have raised prices faster than Hawaii, but Hawaii remains more expensive, creating a tug of war between product quality and price, a mainland travel executive reports.

Dhiren Fonseca, president of the partner services group within Expedia, told the annual tourism conference at the Hawaii Convention Center that Mexican and Caribbean destinations are still outspending Hawaii 2 to 1.

"A lot of consumers are still very price-sensitive," Fonseca said. "Airfares are up 24% from last year and for most people that's a lot of money."

Fonseca said despite that Hawaii is still getting a lot of bookings, and represents such a major chunk of business for Expedia that it has 150 employees based in Hawaii and is still expanding.

University of Hawaii economist Carl Bonham, on the same panel Tuesday afternoon, said he was revising his tourism forecast and now thinks visitor traffic will be up 6% this year. "And I think spending will be up more than that," he said.

Marriott's senior local executive, Chris Tatum, said Marriott timeshares are running 97% full, and Fonseca said Expedia gets a lot of activities bookings from timeshare visitors. Tatum plans a fresh motorcoach tour of the mainland in January to refresh the broader tourism message.

Hawaiian Airlines has seen strong summer traffic. Peter Ingram, chief financial officer of Hawaiian, said he thinks the shoulder season, a period of several weeks in autumn that are traditionally lean for tourism, will be reasonably firm this year.

Paul Deprey, superintendent of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, is looking for a bump in December. "We've been laying low, but our new portal opens then and we expect more traffic."

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