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Tourism Tidbits

Revealing insights into some industry innovators

Courtesy: Hale Koa Hotel

Hawaii, a Military Magnet

While active duty military personnel bring Hawaii billions in economic activity, G.I. Joe and G.I. Jane don't just come to Hawaii to serve. The Islands also serve as a magnet for military tourism. Exact numbers of visitor arrivals are hard to determine; the Department of Defense doesn't specifically track that information. Suffice it to say that military tourism runs well into the tens of millions in revenue.

The 817-room Hale Koa Hotel in Waikiki, a premier military tourism destination, draws enviable annual occupancy rates in the mid-90 percent range. According to hotel representatives, its visitors come for a week on average and spend $79 per day on meals, entertainment and incidentals. That's not including spending on hotel rooms, which average about $110 per night. Add it up and the typical vacationing military tourist blows at least as much cash per day in Hawaii as visitors from the East Coast, who spend just over $160 per day. The only higher spending group is the Japanese. And unlike other visitor groups, military tourists tend not to get scared off by conflicts in other parts of the globe. "We are not immune to fluctuations in the tourist marketplace, but I think we are fortunate in maybe experiencing it in a lesser degree than our neighbors," says Michael Nakahiki, director of marketing at the Hale Koa.

Courtesy: Clear Blue Hawaii

Paddling for Profits

Lots of corporations talk about enhancing their transparency, but few can top Clear Blue Hawaii. The Honolulu-based company designs and builds see-through kayaks that currently are one of the hottest outdoor-activity products on the market.

Made from Lexan - the same material used in bulletproof glass - and designed by Kaneohe marine architect Brian Treinhale, Clear Blue's kayaks have been written up by TIME, Outside, Wired and several other national publications. Company president Andres Segere has managed to land his boats in the top-end national catalogs of Sharper Image and Hammacher-Schlemmer. Segere and company co-founders Brian Woolford and Jim Beaumont stumbled onto the idea while researching the use of remote-controlled, transparent kayaks to find and detonate mines. That didn't pan out, but Segere and company did some market research on water sports and learned that the kayaking segment was growing by 30 percent each year.

It seems as though their research was spot on. Since the product launched in January 2002, Clear Blue has sold 800 kayaks for around $1,300 apiece. The company's dealer network ranges from Hawaii to Micronesia, the Middle East and Australia. Kayak rental operators in Hawaii love the clear-bottomed boats; seven kayak shops and tour operators on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island use Clear Blue kayaks. "With these boats you can paddle over dolphins and look them right in the eye. That says it all," says Segere. He hopes to sell 600 kayaks in 2004, including two new product models, the Molokini and the Hanauma, and turn the company profitable.

Courtesy: Sheraton Molokai

Finally Saddled Up?

Molokai Ranch has long struggled to fill rooms at its various resort properties on the Friendly Isle. The Kaluakoi Resort actually shuttered after failing to draw enough traffic. But this year may mark a turning point. While the rest of Hawaii has struggled with group sales, the Molokai Lodge and Beach Village is making headway in selling to smaller groups of 200 people or less.

According to sales and marketing director John Young, in 2003, the property will double the number of days when a group buys out all the rooms in either the lodge, the beach village or both. "We're 50 percent ahead of plan," says Young, who has sold buy-out packages to wedding parties, the Shriners and Aveda. Young says smaller groups are a lucrative, but underserved, niche, because bigger resorts focus on larger groups and the Lodge can undercut them by 20 percent to 30 percent. Another auspicious sign - the property had its best August ever, with occupancies hitting the 80 percent to 90 percent range.

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