Room for more

LIHUE — Business at the Sheraton is booming.

The Poipu resort is booked at over 90 percent occupancy through July — 20 percentage points higher than an islandwide outlook from the Hospitality Advisor report released on Wednesday.

“We’ve seen growth in the latter part of the year, compared to the beginning of the year,” said Chip Bahouth, Sheraton Kauai Resort general manager. “Business is robust, so we need to enjoy these good times.”

Bahouth said the high occupancy numbers are a result of low fuel costs.

“With gas prices being so stable, we have benefited from the fact that airline capacity is up and the pricing in the market has been beneficial to get customers here,” he said. “All the stars are aligned right now.”

Bahouth said, however, roof repairs to about 50 rooms from last August through March resulted in low occupancy numbers early this year.

But the roofs are fixed. And it’s back to business at the Sheraton.

Kauai on the whole, however, lagged behind the rest of the state when it came to filling rooms in May.

Occupancy on Kauai was at 68 percent in May — 8 percentage points lower than the state average and almost 3 percent lower than in April.

Despite a dip in overall hotel occupancy on Kauai in May, visitors are spending more, according to the report. Visitors spent on average just under $200 per person per day in May — up $20 from last year.

Joseph Toy, president and CEO of Hospitality Advisors, attributes the spending increases to a surge of late bookings from visitors and a growing international market.

“What was interesting in May was that Kauai saw an increase in international visitors,” he said. “What’s up is Australians, New Zealanders, Europeans. The natural beauty that Kauai has tends to favor what a lot of these markets are looking for.”

Bahouth said the majority of Sheraton occupants are not from the international market.

“Most of our business is off the West Coast,” he said. “I’d say 35 to 55 percent is from California, Phoenix and as far as Denver.”

And while Kauai’s occupancy was behind the state average, what people were paying to stay wasn’t.

The average daily room rates had record numbers from April to May, climbing 8.6 percent to $230 – $8 above the state average.

Toy said there were concerns with the visitor outlook going into the first quarter of 2015; however, he said there was recovery in April and May.

“Because we don’t have a lot of advanced bookings, it appears that we may be soft, then all of a sudden we have this rush of bookings in the last three to four weeks prior to arrival,” he said. “This is what’s happening in this market.”

According to the report, Oahu leads at 84 percent occupancy for May, followed by Maui at 71 percent and the Big island at 63 percent.

For the year, the occupancy rate islandwide is at 73 percent, up half a percent from last year and down 5 percentage points compared to the state average.

Sally Helm, Kauai Marriott Resort director of sales, said the Lihue resort credits the film industry for the bump in occupancy.

“We are seeing an increase of visitors over the last few months,” she said in an email. “ The film industry has helped us tremendously due to the filming of Jurassic Park and The Biggest Loser.”

Bahouth said he hopes the trend continues at the Sheraton.

“June was a great month for us, and July is going to be stellar as well as August,” he said. “So the summer going forward looks very, very strong.”

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