Islands' lure boosted by dual-centre option

Islands' lure boosted by dual-centre option

UNITED Vacations has increased its business to Hawaii on the back of parent carrier United Airlines' growing services to the islands.

Product and marketing manager Zia Bapuji said: "The number of room nights booked is 26% up year on year, with Oahu showing the strongest growth at 35% followed by Kauai with a 32% rise. The Hawaiian Islands now account for 10% of our overall business to the US." Actual visitor numbers were not disclosed.

United Airlines introduced daily non-stop flights from Los Angeles to Kauai last year and plans to start a fifth daily service between Los Angeles and Honolulu, on Oahu, in mid-December. It also serves Hawaii and Maui with a number of daily departures from both LA and San Francisco connecting with ex-London flights.

Bapuji said: "As California is our strongest market the two destinations combine very well for the British market. We do a lot of business combined with the West Coast where we offer free stopovers in LA and San Francisco.

"Average length of stay is seven nights on all the main islands and we are seeing strong growth in sales of upgraded rooms. December is also proving to be a very popular month due to the millennium."

Having added the island of Lanai to this year's programme, the operator is planning to increase its range of products for 2000.

Tradewinds says the outer islands of Maui and Kauai are growing faster in popularity than the main island of Oahu.

However, contracts manager Gordon Torrance said: "Few people are taking Hawaii as a single-centre because of the long journey time. The islands feature prominently in multi-centres with the US West Coast and Las Vegas.

"But competition between the airlines serving Hawaii has helped to keep the destination well-priced. We now have a solid base on which to build and expect volume to increase further next year," he added.

"Hotel standards are high and service is as good as you'll find anywhere in the US. The last two years' downturn in the Japanese market has also prompted hoteliers to keep their pricing realistic."

North America Travel Service is also planning to introduce more resort properties into its stand-alone 2000 programme.

Managing director Ruby Briggs said: "Hawaii is a good added-value resort destination when compared to the rest of the US and it now gets the recognition that it deserves on agency shelves.

"It is also a growing favourite for weddings and honeymoons; it takes 80% of this business that is booked in the US - and around 80 to 100 weddings a year.

"The most popular islands for wedding ceremonies are Maui and Kauai, which are more romantic, and our average booking price is £5,000 per couple, including the wedding arrangements."

Newcomer Transpacific Holidays, which offers Hawaii and the South Pacific Islands in its programme, claims to be the first to put together a standard inclusive-tour brochure for the region.

Chief executive Malcolm James said: "It is user friendly and mainly designed for people who haven't thought about going to the Hawaiian Islands. But most of our business is tailor-made after clients see what they can do.

"We will be increasing the size of the Hawaii section by another eight pages next year but still present it as an inclusive type product."


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