Tuesday, January 19, 2010


We just returned from a wonderful week in Waikiki. We tagged along with our kid starting college in Oahu and celebrated by taking some time to enjoy Waikiki beach and take advantage of the Outrigger hotel chain’s Kama’aina (Hawaii resident) rates.

We like staying at the Outrigger Regency on Beachwalk because they have family size units with kitchens and it is close to the beaches in front of Fort DeRussy and an easy walk to central Waikiki for shopping.

This trip we stayed at the Outrigger Waikiki for the first time to enjoy its incredible beach front and take advantage of the amazing savings. (Like 75% off)

Waikiki has changed a lot since our trip last September to the Writers Conference. The crazy mess created by the construction of Trump tower was gone and Lewers street was completed with the retail spaces full of interesting stores and restaurants.

The massive amount of retail space in the Royal Hawaiian Center and along Lewers street has consolidated the Waikiki tourist area.

The tourists were concentrated into a small area stretching from Kealohilani Avenue (by the Duke Kahanamoku statue and Hyatt Regency), along Kalakaua Avenue, to Lewars street and the Sheraton Waikiki.

We noticed that book stores and shops that had been several blocks away had moved into the new retail spaces making it a short walk to find everything we wanted near our hotel. The sidewalks in front of the Outrigger Waikiki and along Lewars were so crowded that we could barely navigate them day or night.

But a few blocks away from the central area in any direction, the crowds were thin, the sidewalks empty, and many of the store fronts were boarded up or empty.

Along Beachwalk street (only one block from Lewars) the newly constructed storefronts stood empty.

We went up to the new Trump Tower hotel lobby and admired its great view of DeRussy park and skyline of Waikiki, but the lobby and restaurant were empty.

We walked around the Hilton Waikiki Village, which had a pretty good crowd on the beach. Many of the sunbathers were from the Hale Koa hotel next to the Hilton which was overflowing with military men and women and their families. They filled the tables around us at the Hilton’s ocean side restaurant talking about Iraq and Afghanistan. But the stores and businesses on the streets behind the Hilton were deserted with many boarded up and covered with graffiti.

Staff in Waikiki hotels seemed to have changed too. While checking in, one hotel staff member was surprised that our driver’s license looked like his. It was strange to have to remind him that Hilo was in State of Hawaii and watch him reluctantly agree (or was he just being polite?). “Oh yes, I guess that is right”. Later a shop worker remarked that if we loved Hilo we must also love Kauai because they were exactly the same place in his mind. Most of the workers in Waikiki that we spoke with had never been to other islands in the State. They commented that they rarely see news or hear anything about the “outer islands”. And only the Big Island’s copious volcanic output seemed to remind them that the State extended beyond Oahu, due to our shared experience of sore throats and burning eyes from the Vog.

Though the fall off in tourism in Waikiki has concentrated businesses into a smaller area creating empty retail space outside the zone, savvy businesses with the right location and products are doing well in spite of the downturn.

We believe that as the downturn worsens on the Big Island, with the upcoming increases in furloughs, pay cuts, and layoffs, that businesses will consolidate and concentrate into fewer locations on the island and those businesses in the right location will do well and perhaps even flourish during the downturn.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Last time I was at Waikiki, a street woman in front of "Dukes" statue pulled down her dress, and urinated on the sidewalk.
Any wonder tourism is down?