Hawaii hotels 88% full, room rates up 10%

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii hotels are running mostly full this winter, or about a third fuller than the average hotel property on the mainland.

Statewide occupancy was 88 percent for the period Feb. 17-23, with room rates 9.8 percent higher than the same time last year, Hospitality Advisors LLC reported Friday.

For comparison, U.S. hotels overall were 62 percent full, with room rates up only 3.4 percent, Smith Travel Research LLC reported Thursday.

Oahu has been leading the trend, and its hotels averaged 91 percent occupancy last week despite room rates up 19 percent from last year to average $212 a night.

Maui hotels ran 87 percent full with an average room rate of $300 a night, about the same as last year at the same time.

Kauai came close to tracking Maui with 84 percent occupancy and an average room rate of $234, up 8 percent from last year.

The Big Island, which usually has more spare capacity, ran 80 percent full with an average room rate of $214 a night that was about the same as last year.

Hawaii tourism got off to a strong start for 2013. The Hawaii Tourism Authority reported Thursday that January saw 681,854 visitor arrivals, up more than 38,000 or 5.9 percent from year-before levels, on a record 1.7 million air seats, with 34 percent of total air seats from international points of origin. Visitor spending was $1.43 billion, up $77 million from January 2012. There were fewer Japanese weddings this year, but overall honeymoon traffic grew 8.5 percent, accounting for 34,749 visitors.

"We cannot take this growth for granted," HTA President Mike McCartney said. "It has taken three years to rebuild our airlift after having lost 1.5 million air seats between 2007 and 2009. It is important that we continue to focus our efforts on highlighting our unique people, place and culture in order to drive demand, offer opportunities for travel during slower fall and spring shoulder seasons, and increase visitor distribution throughout the Hawaiian Islands."

New flights played a big role in the strong start to the year. Arrivals from the Middle Atlantic region, including Hawaiian Airlines' new flights from New York JFK and United's new service from Washington Dulles, rose 15.1 percent, offsetting a decline in traffic from the Midwest. Arrivals from the West Coast were up 9 percent with strong increases from Seattle and Portland as well as from California.

Kauai got 92,163 visitors in January, up 10.6 percent from last year, driven by 18 percent more visitors from the West Coast. But East Coast visitors were up 11.7 percent and accounted for a third of all arrivals, and almost 10,000 visitors came from Canada, up 12.6 percent.

The Big Island got 133,975 visitors, up 7.2 percent, with more than 50,000 from U.S. West and almost 40,000 from U.S. East. Japan and Canada together accounted for 30,000 Big Island visitors.

Maui got 200,962 visitors, up 6.5 percent, mostly from the U.S. mainland but including 35,000 from Canada, up 12 percent. Molokai got more than 5,500 visitors; Lanai more than 6,500.

The 407,075 visitors who flew to Oahu included 113,355 from Japan, up 8.1 percent and 26,719 from Canada, down 5.3 percent, as more Canadians went to neighbor islands for their vacations. There were 12,143 visitors from Korea, up 9.1 percent.

Australian visitor traffic has grown since Hawaiian Airlines began flying from Brisbane, Queensland, in late November, and Jetstar resumed flights from Melbourne in December. Both carriers fly to Hawaii from Sydney. In March, Hawaiian begins flying from Auckland, New Zealand, a market currently served by no U.S. airline.