Record tourism numbers, but not in all respects

Updated: Feb. 4, 2013 at 4:53 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There is nothing wrong with rejoicing over a record visitor year in 2012 - but it's useful to take note of areas where more growth will be needed to attain the last peaks of the local hospitality industry.

The 7.9 million visitors who flew to Hawaii in 2012 did indeed represent a record number, and 4.1 percent above the previous record of 2006. But UHERO, the UH Economic Research Organization, points out that arrivals from the mainland, 4.9 million, fell short of the record 5.2 million that came to the islands in 2006. Canadian visitors, reaching 500,000 in 2012, have doubled since 2005, UHERO said in an online analysis.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority itself noted that while visiting spending was also a record, it falls short of that if one accounts for inflation. Since the last comparable years for visitor spending, Hawaii hotels have seen significant increases in their labor costs and electric bills.

Another change since 2006 has been the still greater popularity of booking one's own travel and lodging using online portals that make side-by-side price comparisons possible. The communization of travel, spreading from air fares to hotel room prices, has led to more price competition, and it is not unusual for hotels to discount prices below year-before levels to fill rooms.

In recent days, for example, Kauai hotels charged less on average than they did in the comparable period of 2012, though their operating costs are greater, according to data released by Hospitality Advisors LLC. Maui hotels charged prices which on average were just barely high enough to keep up with inflation as measured by the consumer price index, which may or may not conform to the actual increase in costs at resort hotels.

State tourism marketing officials have said in recent days that their goal this year is to build on the successes of 2012, encourage still more airline connections, look for ways to help support some of the new routes that aren't flying full so far, and to promote more trips to neighbor islands, whose hotels have more unsold capacity than Oahu hotels do.

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