HONOLULU -- Oahu's attractions suffered not only from a decline in
Asian arrivals last year but also from a drop in U.S. mainland
According to the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau, more
than 60% of the mainland tourists had visited the area before and
were less inclined to take in attractions.
So it came as a surprise here when the Hawaii Attractions
Association released its 1998 figures.
According to the group, the 9.5 million people who visited
member attractions last year on the main Hawaiian island, which
contains Honolulu and Waikiki, were down only 1.4% from 1997.
The 20-member Attractions Association oversees most of Oahu's
major attractions, museums and visitor activities. Although several
facilities also have operations on neighbor islands, the numbers
reflect Oahu sales figures.
The explanation for the slight decline was resident attendance,
which grew by an astonishing 25.1%, to 2.3 million, last year,
according to KPMG Peat Marwick, which compiles the figures.
In comparison, Asia/Pacific visitor attendance, 3.2 million, was
down 10.3%, in line with Hawaii's eastbound arrivals decline.
Attendance by westbound visitors (arriving from or via North
America), 4 million, was down 5%.
With the decline, attractions have turned increasingly to the
resident market of 870,000, and those heavily dependent on Asia are
scrambling for more mainland business.
Discount coupons, heavily discounted rates for residents, co-op
merchandising with free gifts, and buy-one, get-one-free offers
have proliferated. "Many attractions depend on first-time visitors.
The big increase in residents saved many of them last year," said
Bob Taylor, HAA's chairman.
However, Darrell Metzger, Atlantis Adventures president, said
that attractions have paid a price in revenue-per-visitor rates to
attract more local and westbound business. "We try to maintain our
price integrity, but the mainland market is tough. So many
[visitors] have been here before," he explained.
Atlantis Adventures owns and operates Atlantis Submarines
Hawaii; manages Waimea Valley Adventure Park and Sea Life Park, and
provides sales and marketing for the USS Battleship Missouri
Museum. Metzger said at one time, Atlantis could sell a submarine
excursion for $99. Last year, Atlantis introduced the $99 Value
Pass, which includes a submarine ride as well as admission to both
Sea Life Park and Waimea Valley and a choice of either kayaking, an
all-terrain-vehicle tour, mountain biking, horseback riding, lunch
at Waimea or a USS Missouri tour.
Metzger's experience is borne out by KPMG's report, which found
that gross revenue per visitor at member attractions was down 3.3%
But the attractions' problems go beyond getting repeat visitors
inside the gates. Not only is Oahu more dependent on slumping Asian
markets than the neighbor islands are, but the trend is for more
westbound tourists to fly directly to those islands, bypassing
Also, nonstop flights to neighbor islands have increased. Last
year, Oahu's 4.7 million visitors were down 5.5% from 1997. While
Hawaii's westbound arrivals were up 4.1%, Oahu's were up only
Meanwhile, the major neighbor islands all showed arrivals
growth; their westbound visitor increases were enough to overcome
the Asian slide. For the first two months of this year, Oahu's
visitors dropped another 5.3% while Hawaii's total arrivals were
flat (up 0.1%).
Many see more aggressive promotion to markets likely to produce
first-time visitors -who are also more likely to stay on Oahu -- as
a way out of the dilemma.
The Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau and Oahu Visitors
Bureau have made it a priority to aim marketing efforts at
first-time visitors from the U.S. mainland. This month, HVCB's
first seminars for its new agent specialist program are being held
in the Midwest, Southwest and East -- areas more likely than the
West to provide first-time visitors.
Some attractions have been going after Honolulu's growing cruise
ship market. HHA's Taylor, who is president of Maui Divers' Jewelry
Design Center, said sales figures for his cruise business are up
But with very little local business, sales were down 8% last
year, he said. Mainland business was flat, and Asia dropped 15%,
although Japanese arrivals increased because of a market- share
increase, Taylor said.
What hurt the company was the Korean market. "We had 50,000
Koreans -- half of Hawaii's Korean market -- in 1996. Last year, we
saw only 1,000 Koreans," he said.
Hilo Hattie -- the largest retailer and wholesaler of Hawaii
fashions, gifts and souvenirs and its largest resort-apparel
manufacturer -- also is aggressively going after the cruise market
and reported an increase in business. "The challenge is the large
number of repeat visitors who say, 'Been there, done that.' We have
to constantly come up with new ways to attract them," said Carlton
Kramer, vice president of sales and marketing.
On May 1, Hilo Hattie will introduce its latest coupon program,
with one free admission to attractions and activities with one paid
admission. With any purchase, even a candy bar, the free offer
covers 10 attractions and activities plus greens fees at five Oahu
With the purchase of a Hilo Hattie-labeled garment, shoppers
will get 10 coupons for meals at restaurants. Kramer said Japanese
business increased last year because a major competitor closed, and
resident business increased because of the opening of a store at
Ala Moana Center.
The company, which offers discounts to travel agents, began
going after meetings business last year and came out with a group