Tourism Tidbits

Revealing insights into some industry innovators

December, 2003

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.

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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Alex Salkever