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The Joint is Jumpin’

March 15, 2010

Filed under: Hawaii,observations — admin @ 12:54 pm

For a variety of reasons many people see Hawaii as the ‘canary in the coal mine’ – a predictor of what’s to come for the nation’s economy.

So, I thought I’d check in with some friends there and see what the future may hold for the mainland. Hawaii has been hit hard by the bursting real estate bubble and the general retrenching of the US consumer.

Happily my friends, who deal with reality and not economic theory, are actually optimistic for the first time in many months.

First of all, this is whale season, the according to everyone the joint is jumpin’ – literally – so the tourists and residents are seeing a great show out in the water.

A friend who works at the airport in Kona told me, that tourist traffic is up. “The tourism bureau has been saying traffic was down 10% last year, but it was really closer to 30-40%,’ he says, “but now, there has been an increase, probably because the airlines have dropped the fares.” He admits it’s not back to what it was 3 years ago, but at least it’s headed in the right direction.

Further evidence of an increase can been seen in the food business, where many businesses either went broke of cut back hours. Several stopped serving lunch, but one manager friend said they have decided to open up again for lunch starting April 1.

According toa property manager, the condo rental market seems to be picking up too. “We’re going to have our first full quarter in the black in over two years,” she said noting that occupancy percentages were almost 80% for the first three months of the year.

People are still waiting until the last minute to book vacations, but as the weather has gotten colder in the western US and Canada, booking have increased from, Colorado, Utah and Canada where snow-storm after snow-storm has left people looking for an escape.

Another rental agent pointed out that many visitors used to head for Mexico, but between the kidnappings and drug violence they figure “why chance it.” Plus as one agent noted, “they can keep their money in the US.”

In my next post I’ll tell you what my real estate friends are saying out in the middle of the Pacific. But until then, the next time you read a story about an economists making a prediction based on numbers and charts, suggest “On the other hand, here’s what the people on the ground have to say.”

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