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Mon, Jul 09, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Hawaii's visitors seeking non-hotel accommodations


More tourists to Hawaii are bypassing hotels and finding alternate accommodations such as timeshare units, bed-and-breakfast inns or simply a couch at a friend's house.

Despite record arrivals in May, hotel occupancy fell 6.5 percentage points to 69 percent because of increased use of non-hotel accommodations, according to the latest report by Hospitality Advisors LLC. Hotel occupancy dipped 6 percentage points to 74.4 percent for the first five months of the year.

Meanwhile, the numbers of visitors who stayed in vacation condominiums, timeshares, cruise ships or with friends and relatives have all increased, the state said.

Joseph Toy, chief executive of Hospitality Advisors, said on Friday that he first noticed the trend about four years ago, especially with repeat visitors.

Toy said a sharp decline in tourists from Japan also has affected hotel occupancy. About 95 percent of Japanese to Hawaii stay in hotels, as opposed to about three-quarters of Americans.

Another factor is that more than 2,000 Waikiki hotel rooms were being renovated last year and are now back online. Hotels are also charging record-high rates.

However, guests are not necessarily saving money by avoiding hotels. Each of the six rooms at the Ho'oilo House, a Balinese-inspired bed-and-breakfast in West Maui, runs US$315 a night.

Amy Wisthoff-Martin, a partner of the B&B, said her guests are seeking luxury and privacy.

"The resort areas in general have just gotten a little crazy," she said. "Even though you've got all these great amenities, you have a lot of people to deal with."

Hal Nordblom, general manager of the Holualoa Inn, which sits on a 12-hectare coffee farm on the Big Island, said his guests are usually couples seeking a relaxing, intimate and personal experience.

"We'll know them by first name right when we greet them," he said. "Most people don't want to be a number at the front desk checking in."

So some are forsaking the resorts and their sprawling swimming pools, 24-hour room service and spas for a little privacy and space. But hotel chains are not suffering. They're leading the way in the timeshare movement.

Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott and Starwood have timeshare divisions using a club concept where timeshare buyers receive points that offer the flexibility of staying at other properties, including some hotels.

"I think it's a complementary product to the hotels," Toy said. "Hotels are expanding their brand through timeshares."

"There are just more options than ever before," said Daniel Nahoopii of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

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