Travel Weekly's Hawaii E-Letter: January 6, 2003

HAWAII'S VISITOR arrivals in November fell short of expectations, according to the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. Some 485,970 visitors came to Hawaii in November, up 24% from year-ago levels, but down 8.9% from 2000. The good news is that the number of visitor days from the domestic segment, Hawaii's primary market, reached 3.4 million in November, resulting in a 19.4% surge in total visitor days compared with the same month last year. When compared with November 2000, however, total visitor days were 1.5% lower.

MEANWHILE, visitors from Japan and the eastern United States staying in luxury hotels helped Oahu achieve Hawaii's highest occupancy rate in November for the first time in almost a year. While hotel occupancy improved statewide over year-ago levels, the numbers still lag behind the same month in 2000, according to a survey conducted by Hospitality Advisors. Average hotel occupancy throughout the islands was 65.5%, up from 57.5% in 2001, when the state was still reeling from the effects of Sept. 11. Oahu's numbers jumped from 54.1% last year to 69.2%, largely because of a sharp rise in tourists from Japan. Average revenue per available room also increased from $73.90 in November 2001 to $85.66. All islands showed an increase in occupancy and revenue per available room except Maui, which saw its rev par drop $4 and occupancy levels fall from 64.9% to 62.2% in November.

PROTESTS AND MOTHER NATURE played roles in the aborted first attempt by a luxury cruise ship to visit the Hawaiian island of Molokai. With high winds stirring up the notoriously rough seas, officers aboard Holland America Line's MS Statendam decided against tendering passengers to Kaunakakai Harbor, and motored to Kona on the Big Island instead. While many local merchants waited anxiously, hoping 1,200 visiting passengers would infuse a significant amount of money into the economy, about 150 protesters wielded signs on the pier and aboard a flotilla of canoes and small boats. They argued that cruise ships will damage Molokai's physical environment and spoil its rural charm. This would have been one of six stops that the Statendam and two other ships are scheduled to make on Molokai this year.

HAWAIIAN AIRLINES will begin charging for all paper tickets this year in its ongoing effort to achieve financial viability. Joining a trend set by many other U.S. carriers, Hawaiian will offer paper tickets upon request for $25. In addition, beginning today, Hawaiian will stop producing and distributing interisland coupons. Existing coupons, however, will be honored through their expiration dates. One day after Hawaiian's announcement, Aloha Airlines said that it, too, will eliminate interisland coupons and begin charging $25 for paper tickets.

THE KAHALA MANDARIN ORIENTAL HAWAII is one of four properties in the state--and the only resort on Oahu--to win the prestigious AAA Five Diamond Award for its facilities, service and amenities. The 364-room hotel in a residential area of Kahala features five restaurants, new spa suites, as well as views of the ocean, Diamond Head and a private lagoon that is home to five Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins.

CULTURAL UPDATE


• How about a break from the beach for spirits, snakes, lions, a magical instrument, a hero in search of true love and some fabulous music? Hawaii Opera Theatre will present Mozart's comedic opera
• The Magic Flute" at Blaisdel Concert Hall Feb. 14, 16 and 18. Tickets from $27 to $95. (808) 596-7372.


• Indian deities, Tibetan rugs, Turkish textiles and Qajar paintings will be on display at the University of Hawaii's Manoa Art Gallery from Jan. 12 to Feb. 21, when individual collectors will share their prized possessions with the public in "Private Passions." Free admission.

PACKAGES


• Starwood Hotels & Resorts Hawaii announced its 2003 packages at its 13 island properties. Guests are encouraged to build their own experiences by choosing one activity per person per day, ranging from afternoon tea and spa treatments to parasailing and mountain biking. Honeymoon and luxury romance packages on Kauai are also detailed. (888) 488-3535.


• The Lodge at Koele and The Manele Bay Hotel on Lanai are offering new golf, romance and adventure packages for 2003, with special two-night add-ons to a Maui vacation. "Family Values" allows parents with children under 17 to receive a second room free when they book one room at the published rate. (800)-321-4666.


• What better place to rekindle romance than the Pink Palace? Guests who stay a minimum of four nights at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel www.royal-hawaiian.com in Waikiki can indulge in the romance package that includes champagne and strawberries upon arrival, dinner for two in the Surf Room, a one-hour catamaran sail, daily breakfast buffet and the Royal's pink teddy bear. Rates begin at $370 per night.

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