Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

InsightA trend of fewer arrivals to Hawaii from the destination’s largest source market, U.S. states west of the Rockies, has now stretched to four months in a row.

During November, arrivals from the U.S. West declined 7.3% year over year, while visitors traveling from states east of the Rockies dropped more than 9%, according to preliminary figures released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA).

Total spending by domestic travelers was also off, falling 7.5% from the U.S. West and plunging 15% from the U.S. East.

Sagging international figures have begun to impact the destination this fall, as well, leading to an overall arrivals decline of 5.5% along with a drop in total visitor expenditures of 2.1% in November. ShaneNelson

“Major factors contributing to this leveling off include increasingly aggressive competition, adjustments in product pricing and fluctuations in currency exchange rates and fuel costs,” Mike McCartney, HTA president and CEO, said in a statement.

According to David Uchiyama, the HTA’s vice president of brand management, some of the disparity in vacation cost between Hawaii and its competitors can be attributed to the Aloha State’s relatively quick recovery following the global economic downturn.

“I think other markets have not seen that kind of recovery,” he said. “And they’re still very aggressive in their positioning, while we’ve started to move the needle up a little bit.”

Still, the HTA began raising warning flags about higher Aloha State prices reducing U.S. travelers’ length of stay last summer, pointing out buying down trends in the destination’s accommodations sector and declining daily spending figures across the Islands.

Uchiyama said the organization has been talking with its marketing and tourism industry partners for some time about product positioning, working on plans to combat this fall’s trend of visitor arrivals and spending decreases.

“We’re working with our marketing partners in North America and Japan because we see these areas as probably being the most vulnerable for us right now,” he explained. “And [we’re] talking with our industry partners to see how we might be able to reposition our product pricing in these markets. So we’re working with them, and we’ll have initiatives rolling out in the not-too-distant future.”

Looking ahead, however, Uchiyama did say he expects Hawaii to see further market diversification in 2014, pointing toward increased nonstop flights between Honolulu and China as big positives late last year and in the upcoming first quarter.

“We have for a long time been very dependent on North America,” he said. “That’s our core market, and we are going to continue to cultivate it, [but as] the international market continues to grow for us, how do we position ourselves on the West Coast? That’s what we’re working on right now in collaborating with the industry.”
JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI