Tourism tally: August was a $1.1 billion month

By Howard Dicus - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Summer tourism exceeded expectations across Hawaii. August, like July, saw visitors spend hundreds of millions more than they did at the same time last year.

The visitor count rose 12% to 680,496, visitor days rose 16% to 6.3 million, and visitor spending rose 30% to $1.1 billion, compared to August 2009, the Hawaii Tourism Authority reported Thursday.

That worked out to $35 million a day, or roughly $1 million every 40 minutes during August, a better outcome than the most optimistic forecasts, and far better than most U.S. tourist destinations.

"We had a good summer season," said Mike McCartney, CEO of the tourism authority. "This fall, we anticipate continued growth in arrivals and spending over last year."

August benefited from a Baptist convention that continued from late July, and from early arrivals for the USC game against the Rainbow Warriors in early September. Honeymoon traffic was also up from last year. Cruise traffic was down.

"We still have a long way to go before we get back to pre-2008 levels," said Marsha Wienert, tourism liaison to Gov. Lingle. But she said the improvements are encouraging.

An intriguing change in the visitor mix is that Japanese visitor traffic was up only 2% from last year, though surging domestic arrivals more than made up for it.

The far bigger year-to-year increases of June and July were mainly due to the swine flu scare that depressed Japanese arrivals briefly in 2009, but it is also true that Hawaii now gets two Japanese visitors for every three it got in pre-911 2001.

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