Kauai led state in hotel occupancy

Fueled by an unexpected source, strength in the resort condominium market particularly on the North Shore, Kauai led the state in overall hotel occupancy last month.

Kauai’s occupancy rate last month was 73.8 percent, up from 72.4 percent the same month last year, and better than all other Hawaii counties for the first time in recent memory.

Maui was second, at 71.7 percent, and the statewide average was 66.2 percent.

Overall, North Shore properties (hotels and resort condominiums) recorded the highest occupancy of any destination area, 85.7 percent, 10 percentage points greater than any other destination in the county or state, according to figures from the Honolulu accounting and management firm PKF-Hawaii.

That same figure, 85.7 percent, was the recorded occupancy rate of North Shore resort condominiums, over 5 percentage points higher than second-place Kaanapali on Maui (79.9 percent).

The strong North Shore showing propelled Kauai’s resort condominium occupancy rate to 75.3 percent, also best in the state last month by 10 percentage points over second-place Maui (65.3 percent).

The North Shore as “an excellent place to play during the summer,” with calm ocean waters, could be one reason for strong North Shore occupancies, said Ray Blouin, general manager of the Hanalei Bay Resort and president of the Kauai chapter of the Hawaii Hotel Association.

Also, visitors might find resort condominiums with kitchens a great vacation value, he added. They might also know that the alii (ruling chiefs) used to make Princeville and the North Shore their summer playgrounds.

“Summer will be very full this year,” as it has been the past five summers on the North Shore, he said. So, perhaps visitors wished to beat the summer rush and come in April or May, Blouin continued.

“The inventory certainly hasn’t changed at all.”

In the hotel-only segment, Kauai’s occupancy rate last month was 73.1 percent, up from 71.4 percent in the same month last year but still lagging Maui (74.8 percent).

For the first five months of this year, Kauai’s overall occupancy rate of 70 percent was third-best after Maui and Oahu, with the statewide rate 73 percent.

The four counties were neck and neck in the resort-condominium category for the first five months of 2003, with Kauai at 71.6 percent third behind Maui and the Big Island, respectively. The state’s resort-condominium occupancy rate for the first five months this year was 70.9 percent, virtually unchanged from 70.4 percent for the same period last year.

In the hotel-only segment, the state average for the first five months this year was 73.4 percent, up from 72.9 percent during the same period last year. Kauai’s hotel-only occupancy rate for the first five months this year was 69.4 percent, up from 67.4 percent for the same period last year but good enough only for third place among the counties, behind Maui and Oahu, respectively.

Kauai was also the only county in the state to record rises in overall May occupancies for three consecutive years.

The news was mixed but mostly bad on the visitor-arrival side last month, though, as the 80,631 total arrivals marked the lowest May total since 1997.

That figure was off 3.9 percent from May of last year. The 392,757 total Kauai visitors for the first five months this year was also down, 0.5 percent, from the same period last year.

“I was slightly disappointed” with the May numbers from the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, said Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau.

She had been hearing from the “marketplace” that May was going to be a good month, but steep drops in international arrivals couldn’t be countered by “flat” arrival numbers from the island’s primary domestic markets, she said.

The drop in the number of visitors from Canada surprised Kanoho, she said. After a strong gain in Kauai visitors from Canada in April, the island greeted just 1,785 Canadian visitors last month, off 15.1 percent compared to the same month last year.

For both May and the first five months this year, though, numbers of total visitors who chose Kauai as their only Hawaii destination grew compared to like periods in 2002.

Nearly 38 percent of all Kauai visitors last month (30,500 of 80,631) stayed only on Kauai, and for the first five months almost 39 percent of all Kauai visitors (152,240 of 392,757) chose this island alone for vacations.

Among domestic arrivals, the percentage of Kauai-only visitors was even higher, at 41.4 percent for the month (30,146 of 72,843) and 42.7 percent for the first five months (145,553 of 341,046).

While the May arrival figure is off nearly 4 percent compared to the same month last year, the first-five-months total is off just 0.5 percent compared to the same period last year.

The island welcomed over 28,000 passengers off of cruise ships last month, and Lihue Airport saw the largest percentage increase in total airline seats, an 87.1 percent jump to 26,092.

For the first five months of this year, too, Lihue Airport’s increase in air seats, some 73.6 percent to 110,400, was also the highest in the state.

Business Editor Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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