State expects arrivals for 2005 to top 7 million for first time

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Mention growth in arrivals for September -- the first month of Hawaiis shoulder season -- the coming of a third tourist-drawing sporting event in October and revised projections that put arrivals over the 7 million mark for 2005, and youre talking about another record-breaking year.

Hawaiis domestic arrivals soared to new highs in 2004 and have continued to run at record levels right through Sept. 13, when the count for that week brought the total to 6 million, according to the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT). Arrivals at the end of September totaled 5.9 million. 

October arrivals are 5% above October 2004, with domestic arrivals up 7.3% and international arrivals down 1.5%.

The state expects to continue its run of record-high air arrivals throughout October when, for the first time, all three triathlon world championship events will take place over a three-week period and across three islands, generating revenue for hotels, restaurants and shops.

Officials estimate that each event participant brings an average of three guests and stays at least seven nights.

For the first time, the JAL ITU World Age Group Triathlon Championships took place in Hawaii, on Oct. 9 on Oahu. This was followed on Oct. 15 by the Ford Ironman World Championships at Kona on the Big Island and then the Nissan Xterra World Championships, on Maui on Oct. 23.

The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureaus 2006 Annual Tourism Marketing Plan attributed the rapid year-to-year growth to an increase in domestic airlift to Hawaii; the states image as a safe, domestic (yet exotic) destination; its Hawaiian culture and scenic beauty; pent-up travel demand; and a cruise industry riding a wave of growth.

Since July 2004, the state has had a U.S.-flagged ship (Norwegian Cruise Lines Pride of Aloha) homeported in Hawaii waters. NCL home-ported a second U.S.-flagged ship, the Pride of America, this July, and a third, the Pride of Hawaii, will join them in 2006.

The three ships combined are expected to bring up to 500,000 visitors and pump an estimated $500 million annually into the Hawaii economy, the report said.

The marketing plan also noted that although Hawaii visitor-satisfaction levels continue to run higher than any other

U.S. destination, visitor-satisfaction research conducted by DBEDT has shown early signs of slipping satisfaction levels.

As a result, there is growing concern that the record number of arrivals the destination is experiencing may be taxing the infrastructure as well as affecting service levels.   

September arrivals

The DBEDT estimates September arrivals by air will come in 6.1% over last September (642,529 vs. 604,356) for a year-to-date total of 5.9 million.

In mid-August, the state had upped the number of anticipated visitors for all of 2005 from the 7.3 million it had estimated in May to 7.4 million.

Any number over 7 million would constitute a record.  The state fell short of 7 million last year, with 6.9 million arrivals by air. 

The agencys data is based on air arrivals and does not distinguish between those who are arriving to board a cruise ship and those who plan to stay on the islands.

Nor does it factor out the Islanders who are returning home (about 15% of total arrivals). Cruise passengers who arrive by air are forecast at 138,034 year-to-date August, a 48.7% increase over the same period last year.

A spokeswoman for the DBEDT said it would be difficult to break out air arrivals into cruise and non-cruise because some visitors elect to stay on the islands for a combined land and cruise vacation.

The length of pre- and post-cruise stays averages a total of three days.

According to the DBEDT, conditions indicate Hawaii visitor days in 2005 will increase 6.3%, up from 4.7% forecast in May.

Visitor expenditures for 2005 are expected to increase 6.8%, and visitor arrivals are expected to increase 6.1% in 2005.

In 2006, visitor days, visitor arrivals, and visitor expenditures are predicted to increase 2.6%, 2.7% and 5.6%, respectively.

The current forecasts reflect the fact that first- and second-quarter 2005 data for visitor arrivals and days exceeded expectations.

For more information, call the DBEDT at (808) 586-2423 or visit the Web at www3.hawaii.gov/dbedt/index.cfm.

To contact Managing editor/Supplements Margaret Myre, send e-mail to [email protected].

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