Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

More than 125,000 visitors traveled to Hawaii from Japan in October, outpacing arrivals from the U.S. East for the third month in a row and jumping 15.2% year over year. 

Arrivals from the U.S. West, the destination’s longtime top visitor market, climbed 9.6% in October, to more than 255,000, while those from the U.S. East slipped 1.4%, to 118,799, according to estimates recently released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA).

Total arrivals to the Islands grew 8.6% during the month, to just over 640,000 visitors, and statewide visitor spending surged 12.7%, to $1.1 billion.   

“The HTA is optimistic that this positive momentum will continue through the rest of the year and will lead us to exceed our aggressive 2012 targets of 7.89 million total visitor arrivals and $13.9 billion in total expenditures,” said Mike McCartney, the HTA's president and CEO.

Kelly Sanders, general manager at the 1600-room Sheraton Waikiki, said the booming Japanese market has helped his property enjoy a terrific fall.

“Our occupancy [percentages] has been in the mid to high 90s for August, September, October and November,” he said. “Asia is definitely up along with Australia and Canada. We’ve just seen a really large increase in overall demand to Hawaii, and a lot of that’s been from international markets rather than domestic.”

Sanders said that extended booking windows among not only Japanese guests but also Australian visitors, often 90 days or more, were making it hard for some U.S. mainland travelers to reserve rooms at the hotel.

“We’re still seeing good arrivals from the mainland U.S.,” he said. “But I think some folks in the U.S. are taking their time and not booking as soon, so Japan is filling some of those holes, and U.S. travelers are having more difficulty finding rooms.”

Jack Richards, president and CEO of Pleasant Holidays, said his company actually ran out of hotel rooms on Oahu in August.

“Not because of the U.S. market, but because of the Asia and Australia markets,” he clarified. “They’re coming in and taking the rooms, and they’ll pay a higher [average daily rate], which is great for the hotels.”

According to Richards, who was quick to note that Pleasant’s business to the Islands has been “phenomenal” in 2012, higher ADRs at Hawaii hotels are leading a growing number of his customers to book vacations elsewhere next year.

“With the resurgence of the Japanese, along with the Chinese, Koreans, Australians, and so on, the room rates, particularly in Honolulu, are going up relatively fast,” he said. “And that is pushing demand to competitive destinations such as Mexico and the Caribbean."

He added, "The competitive set destinations are running high double digits ahead of where they were a year ago. If you look at Mexico, Caribbean, French Polynesia, they are all mid to high double digits year over year, so it’s clear to us that we are seeing a share shift.”

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