Visitor traffic still strong for 'off season'

By Howard Dicus - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii arrivals by air for the first third of November were up 14% from the same time last year, with strong increases in mainland arrivals to all four operating counties.

The state's daily tally of arrivals, which at this stage includes returning locals, has been running 19,000 to 21,000 most days since November began, with a peak of 23,811 on Saturday. Most days are up 2,000 to 3,000 from the same day last year.

This continues a trend that tourism marketers happily watched in October, when arrivals were up from year-before levels by 11% to a level that topped September and even May, a surprising performance for the "off season."

Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau CEO John Monahan and his marketing chief Jay Talwar, in appearances on HawaiiNewsNow Sunrise this week, called the numbers "surprising" and "gratifying."

With new Tokyo Haneda service not set to begin until Wednesday of next week, the strong traffic has been achieved without much improvement from Japan, arrivals from which were up only 3% in October. So far this month they're up 4%.

The increase, rather, has been mainly from the West Coast, with domestic traffic so far this month up 13% to Oahu and Kauai and twice as much to Maui and the Big Island. In raw numbers rather than percentages, the first third of November has seen 10,000 more domestic arrivals to Honolulu (for a total of more than 94,000), 6,000 to Kahului (for a total of more than 31,000), 2,000 to Kona (for a total of more than 11,000) and 1,000 to Lihue (for a total of almost 8,600).

Raw visitor traffic does not always equate to visitor spending, although in October visitor spending rose more than twice as much as visitor numbers, and some merchants who rely heavily on tourist trade have reported that visitors on neighbor islands seem more interested in activities than shopping. The distribution of visitor expenditures is not tracked as closely as arrivals.

Hawaiian Airlines launches its first-ever service to Tokyo Haneda on Wednesday of next week, and in addition to that both Japan Airlines and All-Nippon Airways plan to shift some of their capacity from Narita to Haneda. Because Haneda is primarily a hub for flights within Japan, there is hope that more Japanese vacationers from cities other than such direct-flight points as Osaka and Nagoya will find it convenient to fly to Haneda, walk to another gate, and transfer to a flight to Hawaii.

Total air capacity to Hawaii has been running about 8% greater this year than last, and for the first time there are as many seats to Hawaii from the West Coast as there were before the near-simultaneous collapse of Aloha Airlines and ANA Airlines in early 2008.

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