Number of marathon runners down, but spending up

Professor Agrusa
Professor Agrusa

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An estimated $100 million is flowing into the state this week generated by the Honolulu Marathon and most of the thanks goes to the Japanese.

People are still signing up but as of this morning there were 21,500 people registered to run in the marathon.  That's fewer than last year but that doesn't mean bad news.

"Everything is 20 percent down for us so I want to spend," said Tomoko Okamoto, marathon runner from Tokyo.

Okamoto is one woman but she tells the story for nearly all the Japanese here in Hawaii for the marathon who are taking advantage of the weak dollar.

"I came here to do shopping actually. I think a lot of shops are having Christmas sales so I'm looking forward to it," said Okamoto.

"This year I think it's going to be a banner year. One of the reasons is because of the power of the yen," said Jerry Agrusa, Hawaii Pacific University Professor who specializes in travel industry management.

The yen is in stride with a 30 year high and even though there are fewer people here overall the 13,000 Japanese that did make the trip are spending more.  Add to that the Australian and Canadian dollars are also doing well compared to the United States.

"It's sad that there are a lot of people that are unemployed, not just in Hawaii but throughout the world through this economic crisis, but those that still have jobs are saying, 'I'm tired of being sad. I'm going to live my life and we're here on vacation we're going to enjoy ourselves,'" said Agrusa.

In Professor Agrusa's research of the economic impact of the marathon he found the race had a $100 million impact last year alone and it's spread out throughout the state because about twenty percent of the runners go to neighbor islands as well.  And the majority are repeat visitors.

"This is my third time to run this race and I really had a good time for the last two times and I wanted to come again. I wanted to come back again," said Okamoto.

"A number of people have decided they're not going to do Christmas gifts to each other as family members, they say you know what we're going to take this vacation we're going to support our runners, whether it's the mom or dad and we're going to make this the Christmas," said Agrusa.

Which helps make it a happy holiday for Hawaii as a whole.

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