By Allison Schaefers | Hawaii Star Advertiser | June 13, 2023
While overall satisfaction among Hawaii visitors is high, fewer visitors from North America say they’re “very likely” to return in the next five years, according to the results of a state-commissioned survey.
The latest Visitor Satisfaction and Activity Survey ranks the cost of a trip to Hawaii as the top reason cited among visitors from the U.S. West, U.S. East and Canada who say they are not very likely to return in the next five years.
The desire to go someplace new as well as the perception that Hawaii was too expensive, and a poor value were among the top factors not to return to Hawaii in all North American source markets that were part of the 2023 first-quarter survey. Some visitors also mentioned a perception that Hawaii was overcrowded or too commercialized.
The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism hired Anthology Research to conduct the survey, using data from Jan. 12 to April 11. The firm surveyed 4,742 visitors from the U.S., Canada, Oceania, South Korea, China and Japan.
More than 60% of visitors surveyed from all markets indicated they were very likely to return to Hawaii in the next five years. However, the percentage who are very likely to return is still falling in some key Hawaii markets.
The percentage of visitors from the U.S. West — Hawaii’s top source of visitors — who said that they would be very likely to return in the next five years fell to 81.2%, a 1 percentage-point drop from the survey’s results in the first quarter of 2022. It marked the lowest score of U.S. visitors who were very likely to return since at least 2016
Among U.S. East visitors, 65.2% of survey respondents said they would be very likely to return to Hawaii in the next five years. The percentage was down 1.4 percentage points from 66.6% in the first quarter of 2022, and was the lowest percentage of those very likely to return since the first quarter of 2020, which included the start of the pandemic.
Visitors from Canada, which has been Hawaii’s top international market since the pandemic, saw a greater drop than domestic visitors. The percentage of visitors from Canada who said they would be likely to return in the next five years fell to 66.4%, an 8.3 percentage- point drop from the first quarter of 2022.
There weren’t similar year-over-year VSAT comparisons for Japan, Oceania, South Korea and China. At the time of the survey, most international visitor markets had relaxed travel restrictions and quarantine requirements; however, there continued to be limited direct flights to Hawaii from Japan, South Korea and Oceania. There have been no direct flights between Hawaii and China since February 2020.
Given Hawaii’s dependence on domestic visitors and repeat travelers, such a decrease in North American travelers returning to Hawaii in five years could strain the state’s tourism performance.
DBEDT statistics show that more than 1.97 million visitors arrived in Hawaii by air during this year’s first quarter, with those on domestic flights accounting for roughly 93% of Hawaii’s total visitors by air. And as many as 72.6% of the first-quarter visitor arrivals to Hawaii were repeat travelers.
Jerry Gibson, president of the Hawaii Hotel Alliance, said repeat guests “are the best guests for Hawaii because they are like an apostle to us. They go out and talk to 10 different people and say they love the destination. It’s really important that we concentrate on repeat guests and many hotels have repeat guest programs.”
The survey results come as Hawaii’s visitor industry continues to struggle to regain visitors from Japan, and arrivals from the U.S. are expected to soften. Though international markets outside of Japan have had a stronger recovery, they comprise far fewer visitor arrivals.
Gibson said hotels statewide are still seeing a “fairly slow pickup” for July and August, which are typically peak travel months for Hawaii.
Still, there were many positive developments in the VSAT survey, which Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO John De Fries attributed to the hospitality of local residents statewide.
De Fries said in a statement, “Clearly, the overriding message that is reflected in these survey results is that the people of Hawaii, from our tourism professionals to the kamaaina who engage with visitors on a daily basis, are the reasons why Hawaii continues to be such a favorite destination for travelers from around the world.”
Despite some softening in the percentage of repeat visitors who would be very likely to return to Hawaii in the next five years, overall visitors gave Hawaii high marks. Among survey respondents, 88.1% of U.S. West visitors; 88.8% of U.S. East visitors; 85.3% of visitors from Canada; 78.4% of visitors from Japan; 73.6% of visitors from Oceania; and 85.5% of visitors from South Korea rated their most recent trip to Hawaii as “excellent.”
Nine in 10 visitors surveyed from each major market said that Hawaii exceeded or met their expectations. Hawaii “exceeded expectations” for 41.4 % of visitors from the U.S. West; 52.6 % from the U.S. East; 46.4 % from Japan; 38.1 % from Canada; 38.6 % from Oceania; and 59.2 % from South Korea.
Chris Kam, president and COO of Honolulu-based Omnitrak, theorizes that months of inflation and higher Hawaii hotel costs have led to higher guest expectations.
“Basically people were willing to spend up for a while, but as they continue to spend increasing amounts of money to come and visit I think their expectations also went up,” Kam said. “If our ability to meet their expectations did not rise as much or worse if some of our product got degraded during the pandemic, then that’s a model that we don’t want to use. At the same time you are raising your prices, you also should be elevating your product experience.”
Gibson said Hawaii hotels are prioritizing guest satisfaction, especially after the disruption of the pandemic.
“Many of the resorts are redoing their hotels and redoing capital items to make the physical asset even better,” Gibson said, adding that there also is additional emphasis on telling the cultural stories of each property and prioritizing sustainability, including using locally sourced vegetables and fruits.
Gibson said the additional investment is good for visitors, but also for employees and the community.
Kam said there is a direct correlation between visitor satisfaction and resident sentiment.
“You have probably heard the saying, ‘It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.’ We turned that around to ‘If it’s a nice place to live, people will want to visit,’” Kam said. “You have got to get quality of life of the residents in balance with the satisfaction of visitors in order to have a sustainable and regenerative model for tourism.”
Kam said Omnitrak is rolling out new national research on resident sentiment, which surveys the results of more than 144,000 Americans across the country, at the Travel and Tourism Research Association Annual International Conference, June 13-15, in St. Louis.
He said preliminary results show that Hawaii is toward the center of the national index for resident sentiment.
Kam said there’s room to improve resident sentiment in Hawaii, but “we’re not as bad as we think.”
TOP REASONS NOT TO RETURN
From the U.S. West:
1. Too expensive
2. Poor value
3. Want to go someplace new
4. Too crowded/congested
5. Too commercialized/overdeveloped
From the U.S. East:
1. Too expensive
2. Flight too long
3. Want to go someplace new
4. Poor value
5. Five years is too soon to revisit
1. Too expensive
2. Want to go someplace new
3. Poor value
4. Flight too long
5. Too commercialized/overdeveloped
Source: Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, Hawaii Tourism Authority
Geneva - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced continued strong passenger traffic demand in April.
Total traffic in April 2023 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) rose 45.8% compared to April 2022. Globally, traffic is now at 90.5% of pre-Covid levels. At 81.3%, industry load factor was only 1.8 percentage points below pre-pandemic level.
Domestic traffic for April rose 42.6% compared to the year-ago period and has now fully recovered, posting a 2.9% increase over the April 2019 results.
International traffic climbed 48.0% versus April 2022 with all markets recording healthy growth, with carriers in the Asia-Pacific region continuing to lead the recovery. International RPKs reached 83.6% of April 2019 levels.
“April continued the strong traffic trend we saw in the 2023 first quarter. The easing of inflation and rising consumer confidence in most OECD countries combined with declining jet fuel prices, suggests sustained strong air travel demand and moderating cost pressures,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.
Air Passenger Market in Detail
International Passenger Markets
Asia-Pacific airlines saw a 192.7% increase in April 2023 traffic compared to April 2022. Capacity climbed 145.3% and the load factor increased by 13.2 percentage points to 81.6%.
European carriers had a 22.6% traffic rise versus April 2022. Capacity rose 16.0%, and load factor climbed 4.5 percentage points to 83.3%, which was the second highest among the regions.
Middle Eastern airlines posted a 38.0% traffic increase compared to April a year ago. Capacity climbed 27.8% and load factor rose 5.6 percentage points to 76.2%.
North American carriers’ traffic climbed 34.8% in April 2023 versus the 2022 period. Capacity increased 26.5%, and load factor rose 5.2 percentage points to 83.8%, which was the highest among the regions. North American international traffic is now fully recovered, with RPKs 0.4% above April 2019 levels.
Latin American airlines saw a 25.8% traffic increase compared to the same month in 2022. April capacity climbed 26.4% and load factor slipped 0.4 percentage points to 83.1%.
African airlines’ traffic rose 53.5% in April 2023 versus a year ago, the second highest among the regions. April capacity was up 50.0% and load factor climbed 1.6 percentage points to 69.8%, lowest among the regions.
Domestic Passenger Markets
China’s domestic traffic rose 536.2% in April compared to a year ago and surpassing the April 2019 levels by 6.0%.
US airlines’ domestic demand climbed 5.5% in April and was 3.3% above the April 2019 levels.
The Bottom Line
“Heading into the Northern Hemisphere peak travel season, aircraft and airports are full of people eager to make use of their travel freedoms. Airlines are working hard to accommodate them with a smooth travel experience despite continuing supply chain shortages and other operational challenges. Sadly, some governments appear more keen on punitive regulation than on doing their part to enable hassle-free travel.
The Dutch Government’s high-handed effort to slash capacity at Schiphol airport is a prime example. And then we have a focus on EU-style passenger rights regulation that is spreading like a contagion. Proponents of this approach miss a key fact. EU 261 has not led to a reduction in delays. That’s because penalizing airlines raises airline costs but does not address delays caused by factors over which airlines have no control, such as inefficient air traffic management or staffing shortages at air navigation service providers. The single best thing that Europe could do to improve the travel experience is deliver the Single European Sky. As for other governments contemplating passenger rights regulations, avoiding a repeat of Europe’s mistake would be a helpful starting point.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.