Air Transport World

Paradise light.

Aloha and Hawaiian prosper even as their home state suffers from a dearth of tourists

HONOLULU--Adam and Eve weren't driven out of the Garden of Eden. They were priced out. Then, they couldn't find a convenient airline seat and when they finally did get a reservation, they discovered chock-full airplanes and airlines moaning about being unable to make any money.

Adam and Eve in this parable are modern-day leisure travelers but the Garden of Eden is the real thing, known by its other name, Hawaii. Famous for its perfect weather, pleasant people and high-priced facilities, Hawaii now is becoming known as the place with available hotel rooms and cut-rate deals, a U.S. destination acting remarkably like an Asian market.

Hawaii tourism has fallen on hard times. Having never fully recovered from the Gulf War recession, Hawaii travel has been rocked again as Asia traffic is decimated by the economic crisis there. The Hawaiian market decline actually led the Asian crisis by several months, starting in the 1996 fourth quarter; passenger counts in the first eight months of 1998 were down 8% over 1997's numbers.

Especially painful to Hawaiian traffic has been the falloff of the biggest-spending group of travelers to the islands, the Japanese, the second-largest source of tourists, not far behind North Americans. Koreans, a distant third before 1997, literally have disappeared.

Japanese travelers are staying away due to a hammering of their economic confidence and the beating the yen has taken.

And the North American market--an economy that should be a bastion of stability and even growth for an attractive Hawaiian market with cut-rate housing deals--has been suffering from a seat shortfall. In 1997, while U.S. capacity was up 3.3%, capacity to Hawaii from North America actually lost 3% of its seats. …

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