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Editorial | Island Voices

Getting tougher to meet Japanese visitors’ needs

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For nearly 100 years, Waikiki has hosted visitors from around the world, and Japanese travelers have been a significant segment of the visitor population since the 1980s. While their numbers peaked in the mid- to late-1990s during Japan’s economic surge, Waikiki’s economic success, from hotels to retail stores, remains dependent in large part on Japanese visitors.

During the global economic crisis, the costs of reaching Hawaii from Japan have increased because of hefty fuel surcharges and additional insurance fees. This comes at a time when other destinations are actively seeking to attract Japanese travelers. Waikiki faces competitive pressure from Mexico, Guam and other Southeast Asian countries. These destinations have the fresh product and new experiences Japanese visitors crave. Competition for Japanese spending is stiff, and Waikiki must continually evolve to meet the needs of the Japanese visitor.

Today’s Japanese visitors are seeking brighter accommodations, higher quality of service and a wider variety of choices in their experience in Waikiki. Most of Waikiki’s hotel inventory was built decades ago, and the aging properties had become unattractive to Japanese visitors.

Hilton and Outrigger have redeveloped to meet these demands. Kyo-ya has already renovated the Royal Hawaiian and Sheraton Waikiki. In addition to upgrading accommodations at these hotels, the company has created unique food-and-beverage options and stepped up its level of service. These changes have been extremely popular with our customers, and they have responded enthusiastically. But there is more to be done.

Kyo-ya is currently planning to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the redevelopment of the Princess Kaiulani and the Diamond Head Tower of the Moana Surfrider. These two properties have served the needs of a growing visitor industry well for many years. However, we believe it is time for Kyo-ya to bring new products to Waikiki to meet the constantly changing needs of the Japanese travelers. These brand-new properties will offer the excitement and experiences Japanese visitors are demanding and will be very competitive with other destinations. They will be the magnets that attract repeat and new Japanese visitors to Waikiki.

Studies have shown that most visitors spend at least one night on Oahu before journeying to the neighbor islands, so the importance of Waikiki as an attractive destination to the Japanese has statewide significance. Continuing to draw this market segment will be good for Waikiki and the entire state.

Current global economic and competitive challenges require that Waikiki make a concerted effort to retain and grow the Japanese market. With the proper planning, Kyo-ya’s redevelopment will be the catalyst that brings Japanese visitors to Waikiki. This is good news for the many Oahu residents whose success depends on the prosperity of Waikiki’s hotels and shops.

Kyo-ya is stepping up to meet these challenges and ensure that Waikiki remains a destination with a competitive edge that will attract more new and repeat visitors from Japan. The redevelopment effort has the support of the Japanese travel industry and deserves the community’s support as well.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: ON THE NET

For more views on Kyo-ya’s proposed Waikiki redevelopment, see:
» www.staradvertiser.com/editorials/20101017_Kyo-yas_Waikiki_redevelopment_deserves_city_support.html
» www.staradvertiser.com/editorials/20101008_City_weak_ on_Waikiki_planning.html
» www.staradvertiser.com/business/20100924_ Kyo-ya_seeks_deviation_from_shoreline_rule.html

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