HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A third of the way into December, the slowest week of the off-season is giving way to the first signs of Hawaii's traditional end-of-year tourism bump.
Just hours after the Friday morning release of a weekly Hospitality Advisors report showing dramatic drops in neighbor island hotel occupancy for the week following Thanksgiving - Big Island hotel rooms half empty; Kauai down to 38% occupancy - the state updated its daily arrivals estimate to show a surge in visitors this week.
The tally by DBEDT, the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, showed more than 153,000 arrivals by air for the first eight days of December, up 11% from the same time last year, or 15,000 more arrivals. At this early stage of tabulation, arrivals include returning locals, who can account for 10% to 15% of the total.
The Honolulu Marathon effect is easily spotted, by checking the breakout for arrivals from Japan. Two-third of the entrants are Japanese. Arrivals from Japan were up 3% in October and up less than 1% in November, but they are up more than 11% so far this month, representing an extra 4,000 visitors.
Jerry Agrusa, a Hawaii Pacific University professor who manages an annual survey of Marathon participants, told HawaiiNewsNow this week that respondents said in larger numbers this year that they plan side trips to neighbor islands.
December domestic arrivals to date are up 11% from last year, with 8% more mainland traffic to Honolulu, 20% more to Kona, and 24% more to Maui.
Kauai arrivals are up less than 2%, but an examination of daily arrival counts shows a year-to-year decline most days last week, while this week arrivals have been half again better than the same period in 2009.
Visitor traffic can slow again after the Marathon but always picks up as visitors fly here to ring in the new year.