KAUAI WORRIES AS FOREIGN ARRIVALS DWINDLE

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By Paul C. Curtis

KAUAI, Hawaii (The Garden Island, Dec. 5) – In some real ways, the strength of Kaua'i's domestic visitor market is causing problems with the international segment, especially where Japanese visitors are concerned, according to industry experts.

The high demand from Mainland visitors for hotels, rental cars, and activities, for example, makes it more difficult for Japan travel agents and individual travelers to book Kaua'i, said Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kaua'i Visitors Bureau.

"The Japanese market is becoming, unfortunately, vulnerable to strong U.S. East and U.S. West demand," meaning there is not always much space available for Japanese groups to book.

The downward trend of numbers of international visitors to Kaua'i remains a concern, even while numbers of domestic visitors (those from the Mainland) remain extremely strong, she said.

Kanoho admitted to being doubly concerned about the dearth in international arrivals in general, and in Japanese arrivals in specific, especially since the drop in arrivals of international visitors seems to be a Kaua'i-only trend, she said.

Numbers of international visitors to Kaua'i were down in October, both overall and in the Kaua'i-only visitor-category (those international visitors who stayed only on Kaua'i), and for the first 10 months of this year, compared to the same periods last year, according to the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT).

International visitor arrivals to Kaua'i were 9,109 in October, down 11.8 percent compared to the same period last year, and 76,798 for the first 10 months this year, down a robust 22.2 percent compared to the first 10 months of 2004, the DBEDT figures show.

While numbers of Japanese visitors to Kaua'i in October were up in the overall and Kaua'i-only categories, they remain down substantially in both categories for the first 10 months of this year compared to the same period in 2004.

The number of Canadian visitors, while down in Kaua'i-only numbers for both October and the first 10 months of this year compared to like periods last year, were up 29.3 percent for the month of October this year compared to October 2004, and are up 10.8 percent for the first 10 months of this year compared to the same period in 2004, the DBEDT figures show.

The Canada conundrum seems to be an issue of "airlift," she said. There are no international flights landing directly on Kaua'i, and numbers of international visitors to Kaua'i reflects that dearth.

That situation softens in severity somewhat by buoyant overall numbers, fueled by increases in domestic arrivals for both the month of October and the first 10 months of this year, compared to the same periods last year.

Kauaians greeted 96,339 visitors in October, up 9.3 percent compared to October 2004, and greeted 904,152 arrivals for the first 10 months of this year, up 4.3 percent compared to the same period last year, according to DBEDT figures.

Numbers of Kaua'i-only visitors were up for both the month of October and first 10 months of this year

Numbers of visitors from the Mainland, from west of the Rocky Mountains, were up 14 percent in October, and 6.3 percent for the year, while numbers of U.S. East arrivals (from east of the Rocky Mountains) were up 6.4 percent in October compared to October 2004, and up 7.5 percent for the year to date, compared to the first 10 months of 2004.

Domestic visitors accounted for over 90 percent of total visitors to Kaua'i in October, and over 91 percent of all visitors for the first 10 months of this year.

The overall strength of arrivals caught Kanoho a bit off guard, she said.

"I was pleasantly surprised" by the October arrival figures, said Kanoho. "They are higher than I expected to this point."

November's numbers, which won't be available until closer to the end of this month, "should be good, too," buoyed by the presence on the island not only of Tiger Woods, but of Michael Campbell of New Zealand, who competed in the Professional Golfers Association of America Grand Slam of Golf at the Poipu Bay Golf Course during the week of Thanksgiving, she added.

With only average November and December arrival figures, Kaua'i should again eclipse the one-million-visitor mark this year. Kanoho figures Kauaians will end the year seeing between 1,080,000 to 1,090,000 visitors in 2005, though that has never been the stated goal.

Which brings up the issue of crowded roads, which need to be improved, she concluded.

December 6, 2005

The Garden Island: http://www.kauaiworld.com/news/

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