For tourism, 'signs of hope'
By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
The number of tourists staying in Hawai'i hotels statewide dipped slightly in November to 63.1 percent although figures for Waikīkī rose 4.1 percentage points, buoyed by business from the Jehovah's Witnesses convention, according to a report released today.
Occupancy at Hawai'i's hotels averaged 0.4 percentage points lower when compared with the previous November, according to Hospitality Advisors LLC president and chief executive officer Joseph Toy.
Toy acknowledges that the 63.1 percent occupancy is low. The only lower statewide rates occurred in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he said.
But he said the occupancy decline is comparatively small and consistent with a 2.0 percent decrease in visitor days reported by the Hawai'i Tourism Authority for November.
And the single-digit shifts appear to be signaling the end of the declines and setting the stage for recovery for the state's top industry, he said.
"We're starting to see signs of hope," Toy said.
The number of tourists coming to Hawai'i is showing increasing stability, but the statewide average daily room rate reflects discounts needed to attract visitors during troubling economic times.
The rate decreased for the 17th consecutive month, falling 9.4 percent to $161.08 in November 2009.
Still, Toy said the rates and arrivals show more promise than the indicators did over the previous 18 months when "there were no bright spots; not even a hint of any light at the end of the tunnel."
The discounted rates were reflected in a 10 percent decline in statewide room revenue per available room — a key industry measure — to $101.64.
O'ahu reported the highest occupancy in November at 72.6 percent and was the only island to see occupancy increases compared with the previous year.
O'ahu's occupancy growth for November was driven by the Jehovah's Witnesses convention, which brought 30,000 visitors to Waikīkī.
That meant Waikīkī occupancy averaged 74.3 percent in November, compared with 70.2 percent the previous year.
Toy said the Neighbor Islands are still feeling the steepest declines, with record lows on Kaua'i and the Big Island.
Luxury hotels on O'ahu reported the island's highest occupancy at 76.6 percent for the month, with an average daily rate of $189.49.
O'ahu's upscale segment saw the largest occupancy growth for the month, with room usage increasing 10.1 percentage points to 72.5 percent.
Occupancies on both Kaua'i and the Big Island averaged below 50 percent in November.
Kaua'i's occupancy rate was 49.8 percent for the month, or 10.5 percentage points lower than the previous November.
And Kaua'i's average daily rate fell 5.7 percent to $172.46, when compared to the prior year.
The revenue per available room on Kaua'i dropped by a substantial 22.1 percent for the month to $89.89, the largest decrease among the major islands, Toy said.
The occupancy rate on the Big Island averaged 46.9 percent in November — the lowest in the state.
Despite the low occupancy, there were some bright spots for hotels on the Big Island, Toy said.
While rates fell on O'ahu, Maui and Kaua'i for the month, the Big Island's average daily rate was stable at $174.83.
Maui achieved an occupancy of 58.0 percent in November, down 3.2 percentage points compared with November 2008's 61.2 percent occupancy.
Maui's average daily rate was the highest in the state at $194.32 but was still 13.9 percent lower when compared with November 2008.
The statewide budget segment achieved the highest occupancy in November among the class segments at 68.4 percent, with an average daily rate of $78.01.
Statewide, luxury hotels reported the highest average daily rates of $223.97 for the month, with occupancy averaging 66.6 percent.
Toy said that although some positive signs have begun to appear in the market, last-minute booking patterns have made it difficult to gauge the outlook for the first quarter of 2010.
"We will still see our seasonal bump during our winter busy season, but it will be well below our historical peaks," he said.
The survey of Hawai'i hotels is compiled by Smith Travel Research, in conjunction with Hospitality Advisors.
For the November 2009 figures, the survey included 163 properties representing 48,123 hotel rooms, or 84.2 percent of all lodging properties with 20 rooms or more in the state.