Be prepared for the summer smash

So confident in the strength of the summer are Kauai visitor-industry decision-makers that many have shifted focus and marketing dollars toward luring fall and winter guests.

And advanced bookings are just a part of the reason for their heightened optimism, according to the county’s tourism specialist.

“The worst thing that was said was It’s looking good,’ because everything else was smoking’ or we’re cracking for the summer,'” said Nalani Brun, tourism specialist in the county Office of Economic Development.

She polled various hoteliers, timeshare managers, activities-desk operators, and others in the industry, and found only upbeat predictions for the summer.

“In fact, everybody’s kind of turning all their advertising dollars right now to fall. Since they’re doing so well in the summer, they’re just going to really focus on keeping it going for as long as they can in the fall,” said Brun.

“Basically, the summer’s looking good. June through September is looking good for everybody,” she said.

The explosion of nonstop flights into Lihue, which translates into more Kauai-only visitors who tend to stay longer, is especially encouraging to those purveyors of island activities. People who stay longer, and only on Kauai, need plenty of things to do while here, Brun continued.

“Everybody’s stoked about the summer, because everybody’s just desperately trying to make up for (a dismal) February. It’s looking good for the summer,” she said of responses she’s gotten from activities providers.

Some arrivals on what are for now summer seasonal charter flights pre-book island activities, so there is built-in optimism from activities vendors who know their summer is set and smoking, she continued.

Specifically, Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays, operators of once-a-week nonstops from Los Angeles and San Francisco aboard American Trans Air (ATA) jets, offers packages including a broad spectrum of island activities, from kayaking to deep-sea fishing to helicopter tours to golf and other things to do.

Pleasant is a major wholesaler whose owners also own the Kauai Coconut Beach Resort in Waipouli and activities desks at various other hotels. While for now the San Francisco flight is scheduled to run only through the end of August, and the Los Angeles flight through the end of October, they could easily last longer if demand continues.

Other activities-desk workers know summer is going to be busy based solely on advanced bookings and projected occupancies at the hotels where the desks are located, Brun observed.

“We got all of the direct flights that we wanted,” she said.

Indeed, of the total 24,494 total air seats into Lihue in April this year, 22,974 came from California. And even more are scheduled this summer.

Both total seats and California seats, chartered and scheduled, are way up for Lihue both for April and the first four months of this year, compared to like periods in 2002, according to statistics supplied by the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.

“U.S. visitors are responding favorably to Hawaii’s unique appeal, and the really good news is that this trend of increased domestic travel will continue through the summer months,” said Tony Vericella, president and chief executive officer of the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau.

War-time promotions of Hawaii across the Mainland are helping to fuel planned summer visits, too, he said. “Our contingency marketing program for North America is designed to capitalize on pent-up travel demand by promoting opportunities that convert consumer intentions to actual visits,” said Vericella.

More encouraging news came from the annual Summer Vacation Survey by Myvesta, a nonprofit, consumer-education organization. The survey revealed that Americans will spend more on summer vacations, $2,378 this summer, up from $2,172 last summer.

Back on Kauai, the flurry of airport activity means many more rental cars, vans and busses on already-congested roadways.

And the days of Lihue Airport being a three-carrier facility are long gone, with no less than five carriers bringing in daily or weekly flights into Lihue nonstop from California cities.

Starting in the middle of this month, American Airlines launches a second nonstop flight between Lihue and Los Angeles, this one four times a week to supplement daily service the carrier began last year.

Aloha Airlines gets into the Lihue-California nonstop scene with four-times-a-week service to Oakland beginning Friday, June 20, now scheduled to be seasonal through the end of August.

And with Hawaiian Airlines already serving West Coast cities nonstop from Kona on the Big Island and Kahului, Maui as well as Honolulu, it appears only a matter of time before Hawaiian also will seek to cash in on the white-hot demand for nonstop delivery of vacationers into Lihue.

On a statewide basis, the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau projects the addition of around 300,000 new domestic air seats into the Hawaii this year (over 18,000 nonstop into Lihue), and the potential for over 5.7 million total seats this year, which would top the previous high in 2000 by 1.2 percent.

At Lihue, in addition to three nonstop flights a day from California on United Airlines, and several interisland flights each day from Hawaiian and Aloha that this time of year are filled mostly with visitors, Suntrips has twice-a-week nonstops from Oakland now through mid-August, bringing in an estimated 2,548 visitors.

The ATA flights are projected to add another 10,000 visitors to Kauai’s arrival figures this summer, while the American flights like the United jets carry around 180 passengers each. The Aloha jets are a bit smaller, but are still expected to bring 5,456 people here this summer, nonstop from Oakland.

Further fueling the huge demand for Hawaii in summer are continued fears of terrorism and infectious diseases associated with some international destinations.

Hawaii ranks in the top 10 lists of summer destinations in both an online poll and a Travel Industry Association of American summer forecast.

With travel consumer behavior still shifting more toward domestic and leisure destinations, Hawaii seems the perfect tonic for travel-hungry Americans.

North American wholesalers and travel-industry leaders have indicated that there has been continued year-over-year growth for Hawaii for the balance of the summer.

Business Editor Paul C. Curtis can be reached at or 245-3681 (ext. 224).


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