Monday, July 02, 2007

Retroblogging Hawaii

The Voxfamily just returned from a week in Hawaii. I leave the blogging at home on family vacations, so I'll share some of the experience this week.

We spent the whole week on Oahu, which contains about 80 percent of the state's population. We stayed at the biggest resort in Waikiki, which was a wonderful place. Since we live in Hanover, we have no need to "get away from it all" on vacation. We actually like to be among people and on this trip deliberately tried to avoid an isolated feeling. Even so, I found each place we visited to be not quite unspoiled, but far less crowded than I expected for the first week of summer.

It seems like I am not alone in my assessment. This story from last week's USA Today reports that convention bookings at the new Hawaii Convention Center (shown below) are down.

According to the story:

Even paradise, it seems, can have a down year.

Only 16 out-of-state conventions are booked in 2008 for the $350 million Hawaii Convention Center, which was built by the state on the edge of Waikiki nine years ago to attract more business conferences.

The number is less than half the 35 conventions that are booked for 2007. In 2006, there were 37.

The culprits? The story continues:

Waikiki's hotel prices, second in the country only to New York City's, are a contributing factor, says Paul Brewbaker, Bank of Hawaii's chief economist.

Through May, the average room rate in Hawaii was more than $198 a night, according to consultants Hospitality Advisors, based in Hawaii.

The high prices seem to be having an impact on quantity:

Hawaiian tourism has been virtually flat the past several years. The state welcomed about 7.5 million visitors in both 2005 and 2006, according to the state Department of Business Economic Development & Tourism. This year, it forecasts 7.6 million visitors.

However, the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization predicts that overall tourism numbers will actually drop by 0.2% this year.

Meanwhile, overall tourism to the United States has steadily grown since 2003. Last year, the USA received 51.1 million tourists, and officials expect a 3% increase this year. Kathryn Goldstein, spokeswoman for Meeting Professionals International, a Dallas-based trade group, said concerns over Hawaii as a convention location might depend on the issues facing a specific group.

So look for prices of trips to the Aloha State to fall over time.

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