Ron Watanabe: Hawaii visitor arrivals can only grow by developing other islands

Ron Watanabe: Hawaii visitor arrivals can only grow by developing other islands

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Ron Watanabe, president of Ron Watanabe & Associates, a hospitality and real estate consulting firm based in Honolulu believes visitor arrivals can grow only if other islands are developed.

Waikiki, the most popular visitor destination in Hawaii, with nearly one-half of the state’s hotel units, is nearing capacity.

The State of Hawaii and the Department of Business Economic Development & Tourism projects approximately 8.4 million visitor arrivals to Hawaii in 2013, reaching nearly 9 million by 2016, both all-time highs. As Waikiki hotels reach capacity, some wonder where these visitors will stay. Oahu’s nearly 29,000 rooms are averaging approximately 85% occupancy through August, according to STR.

Waikiki, the economic engine for Hawaii’s tourism industry, is fully built out and offers few opportunities for new supply side additions. Visitor arrivals to Hawaii can only grow if visitors choose to stay on neighbor islands.

However, getting visitors to the neighbor islands might be problematic. Travelers from Japan, China and Korea are particularly inclined to visit only Waikiki because of the shopping, dining, and other attractions and activities that are available only on Oahu. Visitors are also attracted by the more moderate-priced accommodations that Waikiki offers, compared to the higher-priced neighbor island hotels.

While Hawaii revels in the success of its tourism industry, one must wonder: Is this growth and success sustainable?

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