Monday, April 29, 2013

Hawaii Tourism

2013 Visitor Stats from Hawaii Tourist Authority
Recently, the Hawaii Tourism Authority released some good news about the increase in visitors to Hawaii in March.  The 769,047 tourists that visited the islands was an increase of 7.6% from last March.  The majority of the visitors came from the Western US states but the number of visitors from the rest of the US, Canada, Japan, and cruise ships were all up.  There was also an increase in visitors from Oceania, China, Korea, UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Latin America.   Our take is that a lot of people from everywhere came to Hawaii, resulting in over 7% more tourists during the first three months of 2013 compared to the same time in 2012.

When Oahu has an increase in visitors, it does not always mean that more visitors show up on Hawaii Island.  But the past few months we really noticed an increase in the number of visitors at the two hotels nearby and in vacation rentals inside our condo complex.  We have met couples and groups of people from all over the world at the pool, on the beach, and in the grocery stores.

Many of the visitors we talked to have never been to Hawaii before. The increased violence and crime in Southern Europe, the Caribbean islands, and Mexico has forced them to change the location of their yearly tropical vacation.  One couple’s biggest surprise was that Hawaii was no more expensive than an upscale resort in Mexico. Many people think Hawaii is really expensive and Mexico is really cheap, but the 5-star resorts in Mexico are very pricey.   They thought the food was better in Hawaii and they were not having the stomach problems they frequently get in Mexico. They were also happy that there were no troops patrolling their hotel with machine guns and were not scared to go out at night.

Many US Universities had their Spring breaks in March instead of April because Easter was early this year. We noticed large groups of college age visitors rented condos during March, we assume for Spring break.   The strongly worded warnings from the State Department about the violence in Mexico and the Caribbean may be partly the reason for the large number of young people on the island.   Though they loved the sun and beach, they looked bored with the lack of night life on Hawaii Island.

We hope the new visitors to the island will not only return, but tell their friends about their great Hawaii vacation.

Monday, April 22, 2013

High value house design in Hawaii

We recently calculated that running an air conditioner every day to keep a small 2 bedroom home cool that was not designed for Hawaii’s tropical climate would cost between $450 to $1000 a month for electricity.   That extra monthly expense is the equivalent to an additional $100,000 to $225,000 that could have been used toward a mortgage at 3.5% interest. 

If this monthly expense for electricity was income generated from a savings account paying 0.2% interest (sadly a common interest rate these days) it would take a savings account of $2.7 million to $6 million just to generate the $5,400 to $12,000 annual cost for electricity.

Surprisingly, homes in Hawaii designed for the tropics to minimize the cost of electricity and homes designed for cold climates that are solar ovens requiring continuous air conditioning are often priced the same.

Although the financial benefits are enormous when a home does not require air conditioning, the enjoyment and health benefits of having fresh, tropical breezes blowing through your home is yet another huge value in a house designed for Hawaii.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Is Hawaii where to Retire?

Every day 11,719 “baby boomers” (Americans born between 1946 and 1964) turn 65.  Many of the 77 million “boomers” are planning to retire soon and consider living in a warm, tropical environment ideal.  In the past two years, Hawaii has seen a surge in the number of visitors, due in part to the spreading violence and political unrest in many other tropical destinations.  We suspect that many of the visitors are boomers looking at Hawaii as a place to retire.

We know personally how wonderful it is to live in Hawaii.  The year round warm weather, the amazing local foods, the laid back lifestyle, and the traditional respect for the elderly makes Hawaii a great place to be old.  We have always wondered when the boomers would show up in Hawaii looking to retire.  We calculate that if only 1% of the 77 million American boomers retire in Hawaii, it would increase Hawaii’s small population by almost 1 million people.  

After five years of living on Hawaii Island, this is the first year we have seen a noticeable increase in older Americans from the mainland on the west side of Hawaii Island.  They are more obvious this time of year, because it is the start of “off season” and the thinning crowds of tourists make long term residents stand out.  Normally the beaches and parks are less crowded and the traffic lets up this time of year.  So, we are surprised at the number of boomer couples still here from the mainland in the grocery stores, strolling around town, swimming off the Kailua pier, sunning on the beaches, and walking on the Maka’eo path.  We are even seeing out of state license plates on the highway, a rarity in Hawaii.

If boomers do retire in Hawaii in large numbers, the changes could be epic. There could be an increase in real estate prices, new businesses, increased traffic, and the “boomer vote” would change the political priorities in Hawaii. A single seasonal surge in older Americans remaining on the island past “high season” may be a fluke or the beginning of a big change in Hawaii, only time will tell.