Tourism Down for First Quarter

WAIKIKI (KHNL) - The new year isn't off to a good start for Hawaii's tourism industry.

Visitor numbers are down and many businesses are feeling the impact.

"Traffic is not as busy as we expected like last year," said Tosh Asada, manager of Rolex in Waikiki.

He says constant construction on Kalakaua Avenue doesn't help. The Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center undergoes a transformation and businesses play musical chairs.

"Some people cannot find the stores," said Asada.

That's just one reason why some people believe business is slow.

"I think it's the continued decline from the Japanese market, and the East Coast didn't have cold weather very early this year. They're just now getting the types of weather that everyone wants to get out of," said Marsha Weinert, state tourism liaison.

Some hotels, like Starwood Hotels and Resorts, say occupancy usually starts tapering off in April or May. But they already see a slight decline in March. So some will pump up their promotions earlier than usual.

"You usually gear up in February and March, looking at that Spring/Summer travel. And they have accelerated those campaigns where they actually launched them in January," said Weinert.

The visitors we talked to say they love Hawaii, but they're not sure if and when they'll return. They say it's getting too expensive to come here.

"It's cheap to get here but it's pretty expensive to see the sights and pay for food and all that good stuff," said Shawnnie Lewis, tourist.

Tourism experts say there's still plenty of time left in the year. They predict 2007 will be a good year, but won't break any records.