2009 Hawaii Travel Trends and Predictions

Waikiki from the Hanohano RoomWhat’s in store for the traveler who is considering a vacation to Hawaii? As the new year approaches, I’ve been asking that question with Hawaii travel and tourism experts on the trends that they predict for 2009. Everyone agrees that Hawaii will offer travelers great value in the coming year. 

General Insights

Most folks predict that 2009 will be a difficult year universally for luxuries like travel. David Uchiyama, Vice President of Tourism Marketing for the Hawaii Tourism Authority, indicated that Hawaii won’t be immune. David said, “Hawaii is in for a rough first half of the year in 2009 as economic uncertainties continue on a global scale.” David also mentioned that booking windows have shortened making a long term forecast more difficult to predict.

Hawaii’s tourism pain will be the vacationer’s gain per Nathan Kam, Vice President of Travel & Tourism for McNeil Wilson Communications in Honolulu. Nathan said, “Hawaii will remain a “buyer’s market” and a great vacation value for travelers as we head into 2009. In this current economy, I think you can expect hotels, airlines, and travel wholesalers will continue to offer deals, specials, and added value to help those wanting to take a vacation make it a reality. Those who have been waiting to vacation in the Aloha State will want to take advantage.”

Airline & Airfare Predictions

Some experts predict that airfare will start to drop even more than the great fares we’ve been seeing in the fourth quarter of 2008. Bruce Fisher, owner of the Hawaii-based travel agency Hawaii Aloha Travel says that their company is already finding lower fares for the IMGP1299first quarter, which is typically high season.

A Hawaii-based travel industry insider–who wished to remain anonymous–predicts that airfare will drop soon because of lower fuel cost and fares should follow. This person also predicts a fare war in 2009 and here’s why:

“Airlines have already reduced capacity due to lack of demand. However, they can only reduce capacity to a point. The last step (Drastic step!) is to stop flying the route. This is the absolute last option because starting or restarting a route is an expensive proposition. You can’t just start flying between two cities whenever you want. You need a gate at the airport, you need all sorts of things in place to support the route on both ends. (It’s too much to list!) So, airlines will begin to fly the minimum required to keep a route operating. If the airlines servicing the route are still having trouble filling the seats, they will compete for the few passengers left and try to stimulate demand by reducing the fares until the seats start to sell.”

This person also cautioned that you shouldn’t just sit on the fence with your fingers crossed that you’re going to save $40 more on a ticket saying, “I believe airfare is going to hit rock-bottom, however if you find a good deal, you should take it.” I’d like to echo that advice. Several times I’ve held out only to find prices went up, not down.

Hotel Predictions

Four Seasons Malele Bay

My anonymous insider also predicts that hotel stays will get even cheaper and stay that way for a while. This person says, “Demand for rooms is directly proportional to the airline capacity. For example, if there are more plane seats than hotel rooms, the cost of the room goes up. Conversely, if there are more hotel rooms available than plane seats, the cost of the rooms go down. So, since I believe air capacity will shrink, I believe the competition between hotels will go up.”

Nancy Daniels, Director of Public Relations for Outrigger Enterprises Group, thinks 2009 is a great year to take a Hawaii vacation saying, “Outrigger, along with other Hawaii hotels, has made very competitive market adjustments in pricing and added value offers so travelers to the islands can be assured of getting more for their money in 2009.”

Cruise Predictions

My travel agency contact, Bruce Fisher at Hawaii Aloha Travel, told me that for the first time in a long time, he’s starting to see great NCL cruise specials coming out for Hawaii. Bruce says that in previous years predicting the travel trends were easier, but with this uncertain economy he really can’t predict more details.

Final Thoughts

I know many of the Go Visit Hawaii readers love Hawaii. If you are like me, you feel concerned about the economic downturn and how it impacts a state like Hawaii that is so dependent on Hawaii-October-2008232tourism. With the Aloha Spirit and abundance of natural beauty of Hawaii, we can be certain that Hawaii will bounce back when the economy does.

I tell everyone from my hair dresser to my friends at the gym that now is a great time to be planning a trip to Hawaii. Most people tend to have a false belief that Hawaii is too expensive. If you are one of those people, it’s time to check some data. I’ll bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I love my home state of North Carolina, but I can find better hotel deals in Hawaii than I can on the coast of North Carolina. When I tell my friends how much we usually spend on a hotel per night in Hawaii, most people’s jaws drop, because they expected much higher prices. Hawaii offers excellent value in one of the most wonderful settings in the world.

Mahalo to David Uchiyama, Nathan Kam, Bruce Fisher, Nancy Daniels, and my anonymous contact who were so gracious to take the time to share their insights. So, these are the thoughts from the experts. What do you think? What do you hope for 2009 Hawaii travel?

  1. Wow… It looks like there is a consensus about Hawaii Travel in 2009. It looks like good news for visitors.

    My sister is on vacation in Hawaii right now with her husband. They keep talking about how affordable everything is. They say the prices for food are about the same as they would pay back in San Antonio.

    I believe a LOT of people assume that everything costs double – kind of like the concession stand at the movie theater but it doesn’t. In my opinion… The best things to do in Hawaii are free anyway.

  2. Hi Dave – You’re right…2009 Hawaii travel is gonna be excellent for the Hawaii visitors!

    I totally agree with you about the best things in Hawaii being free — the beaches, hikes, mountains, waterfalls, lava viewing, etc….all FREE!

    I hope you enjoy you’re time with your sister her husband. Is this her first trip to the islands?

  3. We are planning on going to the big island for our 20th anniversary. We are on a budget, plan on traveling either the end of august or beginning of september. When should we buy ticket? and do you think there will be better deals with hotels, B&B or house rentals? The latter 2 should I worry about foreclosure and lost reservation?

  4. Hi Mercedes – You will probably find the best deals in the beginning of September, after Labor Day.

    When should you buy a ticket? Oh my, I wish I knew the answer for that. In this economy, it’s difficult to predict. Some experts say, not to book any more than 4 months out. In my opinion, if you see a good fare, snag it. Sign up for the e-mail airfare alerts from kayak.com, airfarewatchdog.com and/or farecompare.com to start to get a feel for what’s a good fare from your home airport.

    There are accomodation deals everywhere in Hawaii. I’ve been telling everyone that 2009 is THE year to visit Hawaii. I would say that the full influx of deals for the August/September are not going to start coming out until say May/June. That being said, you can still find some good deals for that time frame even now.

    Staying in a condo is a great way to save money. https://www.govisithawaii.com/2008/01/30/why-staying-in-a-condo-on-a-hawaii-vacation-is-a-savvy-choice/ If you are worried about foreclosures, go with a full service management company like Aston or Outrigger.

    Also, consider combining air and accommodation with sites like Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, Hotwire. Do shop around to check individual prices in comparison to the total price. A friend was pricing a Maui vacation with air and room separately and then together on Orbitz. She found about $400 savings.

    Once you get to Hawaii, you’ll find a lot of great budget friendly things to see and do: https://www.govisithawaii.com/2007/10/25/best-big-island-budget-fun/

    Good luck with planning your Big Island anniversary trip and have a great time!

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