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Exclusive: Aussies fill Waikiki hotels

David Carey EDITED

Outrigger’s chief says Australian travellers significantly helped the company post strong numbers in its Waikiki hotels during 2013. HM Editor-In-Chief JAMES WILKINSON reports from Hawaii.

Hotels in Hawaii’s tourist playground of Waikiki had a strong 2013 and a lot of that success can be attributed to Australian travellers, according to the head of the state’s largest accommodation provider.

In fact, Australian travellers are now the second largest market globally for Outrigger and the company’s President and CEO, Dave Carey, says that’s showing no signs of slowing down.

“[2013] was a fantastic year for the company and the bright star was Waikiki,” he exclusively told HM. “And Australian business has been a major contributor to Honolulu’s success.”

According to the latest figures released recently by Hawaii Tourism Oceania, showing the year-to-date until November 2013, the Australian market was up a massive 25% on 2012 to 278,239 visitors. And that’s on the back of almost 34% growth in 2012 compared to 2011.

Air access has been a major factor in those numbers growing so rapidly, with direct flights now available from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney on Qantas, Jetstar and Hawaiian Airlines.

Hawaiian’s growth Down Under – which added Brisbane flights in 2013, along with a number of extra Sydney services – can be credited for most of the success, Carey said.

“Hawaiian has been a major contributor to business to Hawaii,” he said, noting the airline’s launch of Auckland flights was also leading to strong numbers from New Zealand, a former monopoly market that had previously only been served by Air New Zealand.

Carey said Jetstar’s recently re-instated Melbourne-Honolulu services have also had an impact on visitor numbers.

Outrigger-Waikiki on the beach

He said Australians and New Zealanders were flocking to Waikiki for shopping, dining and beach time.

“It’s strange to say because for Hawaiians it’s not cheap, but Aussies come to Waikiki to shop,” he said. “Compared to Sydney, it’s a deal.

“Hawaii is the right market at the right price,” Carey said.

A 15 minute walk from Waikiki is the popular Ala Moana Center, the state’s leading shopping mall that’s filled with American, Australian and Japanese accents on a daily basis by the thousands.

With top shopping one minute, beach the next and cocktails after that, Waikiki is a one-stop-shop for travellers and a that mix that’s seeing a lot of Australians skipping a visit to the neighbouring islands – of Kauai, Lanai, Maui, Hawaii and Molokai – and staying put on Oahu.

“The neighbouring Islands haven’t done as well in getting Aussies to visit,” he said. “[Primarily because] when you walk around Waikiki, there are so many things to do.”

Carey said Waikiki is also looking is best in almost four decades and that’s helping bring more travellers to the Aloha State.

“The product in Waikiki has been invested up, including the Waikiki Beach Walk and in the 35 years I’ve been here, the streets and shops are in the best physical condition they have ever been in,” he said.

Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330

The Hawaiian growth is coming at the expense of Australian domestic travel, with Carey saying business in Australia for Outrigger has been “lacklustre”.

“Domestic travel in Australia has been poor,” he said. “[In particular] Surfers Paradise hasn’t found its way… it’s not like it was.”

Carey was more upbeat about business in the company’s other locations in Australia, revealing “Noosa and Twin Towns are going well”.

Properties in Fiji and Bali are also performing well and the company’s next mission, he said, was to get Australian travellers to visit Outrigger’s upcoming property in Mauritius.

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