Sagging arrivals figures from Hawaii’s largest source market may be poised for a turnaround this summer.
Although the number of visitors traveling to the Islands from U.S. states west of the Rockies declined for a 10th straight month in May, they were off just 0.6% year over year, according to the latest monthly data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA).
That slip followed a U.S. west arrivals drop of only 1.4% in April, a significant improvement over the nearly double-digit plunge in March and a 7% decline in February.
A relatively recent reduction in airfares may be stimulating increased Hawaii interest from the U.S. West Coast and could help push the market’s arrivals figures back into positive gain territory this summer.
According to Jack Richards, president and CEO of Los Angeles-based Pleasant Holidays, cheaper airfares from mainland gateways on the West Coast have generated an uptick in his company’s Hawaii summer bookings.
“Up until about 30 to 45 days ago, the 2014 fares were running higher than 2013,” he said. “But that began to change in late May and June. Now we’re at the point that our analysis indicates that as a whole, fares are down about 8.5% to these Hawaii destinations when compared with the same time last year, which is really positive for the market.”
Richards said Pleasant is seeing some of the most substantial reductions on flights from Los Angeles to Hawaii.
“For example, on LAX to Honolulu, we’re now tracking a fare of $576 vs. $664 a year ago,” he said.
It should be noted that 2013 was a record-breaking year for Hawaii in terms of arrivals, with the destination’s impressive peak summer season performance helping to propel the Islands past the 8 million visitor mark overall last year.
The extended streak of monthly, year-over-year U.S. west arrivals declines has since been regularly attributed to the growing cost of an Aloha State vacation, but Richards said Pleasant has seen hotel average daily room rates (ADRs) drop some across the Islands, and he believes the reduced cost of air fare, thanks to a number of sales extending into the fall of this year, is the result of simple supply-and-demand fundamentals.
“If there’s not enough demand, you’ve got to stimulate demand,” he said. “And I believe that’s why [the airlines] are lowering prices, [and] these reductions in fares have definitely helped stimulate demand to the market, but you never know how long the reduced fares will last.”
According to the HTA’s latest air seat capacity outlook, Hawaii will see an 8.4% year over year increase in lift from US states west of the Rockies through the three-month period ending Sept. 30.