Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, December 25, 2004

Visitors fill up hotels in Waikiki

By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Staff Writer

Waikiki bookings through the new year are expected to be at least as good — if not better — than last year, capping off a year of solid growth in the industry and building momentum into 2005. More tourists arriving from the Mainland should offset a reported decline in Japanese visitors this holiday season.

Marilyn Lee, of Na Kupuna O Ko'olau leads a hula lesson in the lobby of the Outrigger Reef Hotel. The Christmas Eve session drew enthusiastic participants of all ages. Among her students: 92-year-old Burke Vermillon and 16-year-old Kaitlyn Martinson.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

The holidays started a little earlier for Starwood hotels, thanks in part to the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl and the early scheduling of the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic college basketball tournament, said Keith Vieira, senior vice president and director of operations for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Hawaii.

"We probably have about 700 to 800 people from Alabama Birmingham coming ... and we seem to have a lot of kama'aina from the Neighbor Islands coming in for the football game," he said. "They're coming early enough so they're going shopping and they're going to the game.

"I think the whole month will look good because we've had such a good pre-Christmas week," he said.

A survey by Japanese travel agency JTB and booking figures from JAL Group showed more Japanese are traveling during the winter peak vacation season this year but fewer are coming here.

At the same time, however, more people from the Mainland are traveling this winter.

U.S. leisure travel between December and February is expected to grow 2.5 percent over last year, according to the Travel Industry Association of America's forecast. The association reported that American winter leisure travel has increased 11 percent since 2000.

Vieira, who said Starwood has a high volume of Japanese visitors, said he hasn't noticed a decline in that market through the New Year's holiday season. Overall, bookings are about the same as last year, except the holiday boost began a week earlier, he said.

Hotel occupancy is running in the upper 80 percent to low 90 percent, and by Tuesday rooms should be sold out, Vieira said.

Outrigger's Hawai'i properties will see a "solid holiday period," said David Carey, president and chief executive officer of Outrigger Enterprises.

"I think we're getting a little bit smarter about yield management so it's not necessarily bursting at the seams, but it should be very strong from a revenue standpoint," he said. "We should finish December this year up slightly from last year and last year was a great year.

"I think I've been saying over the last several months that we've just seen steady momentum. Not strong year over year, but it's OK because we finished so well last year.

"We usually try to leave a little room for last minute bookings," he said. "The (hotels) on the beach (get) sold out and there tends to be some room off the beach. It's going to be a very strong week next week."

The Halekulani is sold out during the Christmas and New Year's holidays, said spokeswoman Joyce Matsumoto.

"I think for most of the hotels, they're always sold out during the holiday season," she said.

"Hawai'i's special, and I think people that travel here enjoy it so much that they make the holidays a tradition for themselves and their children and grandchildren," she said. Plus, Matsumoto added, "we really have beautiful weather."

Reach Lynda Arakawa at larakawa@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 535-2470.