Insight Hawaii Insight Good news for Oahu, but a challenge for agents By Shane Nelson / December 03, 2012 Share 1 -- Oahu’s islandwide hotel occupancy was 85.6% through the first nine months of this year, an increase of 4.7 percentage points from the same period a year ago and tops among the island's global island and sun destination competitors. Puerto Rico posted the second-highest occupancy average, finishing the third quarter of 2012 at 74.5% and up 3.4 percentage points year over year, while Maui rounded out the top three at 73.3%, inching ahead just over 2 percentage points, according to a recent report by Hospitality Advisors and Smith Travel Research (STR). Some of Hawaii’s major competitors, all members of the island and sun ranking’s top 10 occupancy producers, finished double digits behind Oahu, including Phuket, Thailand (71%); Bali (70.5%); Aruba (68%); and the Bahamas (66%). Among the island and sun destination’s top revenue per available room (RevPAR) producers, however, Oahu mustered only fifth with an average of $155.36 per night, a dramatic increase of 18.4% year over year. Maui finished third at $189.90, climbing 8.1%, while the Maldives took the top spot at $376.23, up 16.4%, and French Polynesia landed in second at $197.38. “Hawaii’s strong recovery, and in particular the record pace in hotel revenue, have helped strengthen each island’s performance among its top competitors among the island and sun destinations,” said Joseph Toy, president and CEO of Hospitality Advisors, in a statement. “The recovery in Hawaii has been remarkable given where we were just two years ago.” Oahu’s impressive occupancy and room revenue figures through the first three quarters of 2012 have certainly been good news for island hoteliers and helped drive Hawaii’s tourism industry recovery, but the crowded properties have made booking Oahu stays a challenge for some agents. “There are just times when we cannot get rooms on Oahu for our clients,” said Debra Stern, a travel consultant with San Jose, Calif.-based Peak Travel Group, No. 48 in Travel Weekly's 2012 Power List. “And it seems like it’s because of the increased lift from Australia and the fact that the Japanese market is coming back, and there are new flights from Korea. It just seems like Oahu is getting harder and harder to book.” Stern said locking down Oahu hotel rooms started to become a challenge for her, and her colleagues at Peak, early this summer, but it has remained difficult through the fall and continues to be tough heading into 2013.“Sometimes it works to send clients to the other islands,” she said, noting that a busy Oahu hasn’t dampened demand to Hawaii overall. “Sometimes the client can shift their dates a little bit, depending on how extreme the situation is. Sometimes they just postpone their whole trip. …But whenever we hear clients say they’re going to go to Oahu, we try to encourage them to book early.” Jerry Westerhaven, general manager at the 1,230-room Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa, agreed that planning Oahu trips further in advance was good advice. “Waikiki is an extremely popular destination right now,” he said. “The demand for rooms from our partners is extremely high and more so right now than it’s probably ever been. Normally with our revenue streams, if one market is high, another is low, but they’re all producing strong demands at the moment.” Westerhaven said business had been good not only from Japan and the U.S. Mainland but also from Australia, South Korea and even Europe over the summer while the traditionally slower Waikiki shoulder periods had outperformed expectations.“Usually our fall has some peaks and valleys to it, but that hasn’t really been the case this year,” he reported. “Thanksgiving was very solid. And December looks really good. Even that week leading up to Christmas is not as soft as it usually is.”The Hospitality Advisors and STR report also provided a range of hotel data for international destinations, and Hawaii finished second in a ranking of top 10 occupancy producers worldwide, posting a statewide average of 77.8% through September 2012 that climbed 4.1 percentage points year over year. The Aloha State finished behind only Singapore’s 84.3%, up less than a percentage point, and ahead of major competitors like the Caribbean’s 67.9%, up 4.4 percentage points, and Mexico’s 58.6%, up 1.3 percentage point. Hawaii’s statewide RevPAR average of $157.86 a night through September, a jump of nearly 14 percentage points over the same period last year, was also second only to Singapore ($200.24) globally.