As mainland visitors peak, Hawaii looks overseas

As mainland visitors peak, Hawaii looks overseas

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - U.S. air fares are moderating, but at record levels, making it a tough call how much domestic passenger growth will continue this year.

The Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau forecast so far: spring quarter down slightly, summer quarter up about 2%, compared to the same quarters last year.

One factor that might help: 11,362 travel agents added to the website. HVCB discussed this at a daylong round of marketing briefings at the Hawaii Convention Center.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority, which put the briefings together, knows that if domestic tourism levels off, international tourism will be critical.

Its marketers in Japan report some good macroeconomic signs for visitors from Japan, including a lately stronger yen – trading Thursday at 108 to the dollar.

In February arrivals from Japan were up 4% but their spending was down 5%. Hawaii is faring better than some other destinations: Japan visitor traffic to Guam, China and South Korea is down.

With costs higher than most destinations, Hawaii's market share may be smaller than some think, 9.31% of all outbound international traffic from Japan. More Japanese travel to Thailand than to Hawaii.

South Korea is a growth market. Outbound travel is equal to 38% of total Korean population traveling, probably surpassing 20 million this year, half again more than in 2013, thanks to new public holidays.

Fewer than 1 million Koreans visit America in a year, but that's the eighth most of any nation and more even than Australia when all U.S. destinations are counted. Hawaiian Airlines and Korean Air Lines have indicated they might increase their Seoul-Honolulu capacity if traffic remains strong.

Oceania has been a key growth spot for Hawaii international tourism. Last year 334,000 Australians visited Hawaii and another 64,000 from New Zealand, about 25,000 more than the year before. Hawaii is connected to Australia by Qantas, its discount subsidiary Jetstar, and Hawaiian Airlines, while Hawaiian and Air New Zealand fly between Honolulu and Auckland.

Australian visitors spent 5.6% less than year. In general they are high spenders, with a proclivity for staying at four- and five-star resorts here, and for shopping while here. But an Australian can spend a great deal less in Fiji or Phuket. Even Los Angeles is cheaper than Hawaii.

The top four Chinese international vacation destinations are the Maldives, Thailand, Singapore and Dubai. Hawaii is fifth, with prices comparable to the Maldives but twice as much as Thailand. Fully 90% of outbound Chinese tourism is within Asia, only 3% to the Americas.

There are 13 flights a week from China to Hawaii, seven with China Eastern, three with China Southern and three with Hawaiian Airlines. Total airlift is 3,400 seats a week, though this does not include people flying here through other cities.

Europe has always been a small market for Hawaii, despite Hawaii getting 65% more European visitors than Tahiti. Marketers say Europeans don't fly this far for quick getaways but they do take long bucket list vacations here.

Europeans can now fly to Hawaii in two hops through Seattle, Portland and Salt Lake City, and Boeing 787s will have the range to fly nonstop from Europe to Honolulu.

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