2010 was a 7 million visitor year for Hawaii - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

2010 was a 7 million visitor year for Hawaii

 By Howard Dicus - bio | email 

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii welcomed 7.1 million visitors in 2010, and they spent more than $11 billion.

The visitor tally compared to 7.4 million in the record years 2006 and 2007, and the spending total was up 16 percent from 2009, the Hawaii Tourism Authority reported Wednesday.

Visitor spending per day peaked at $35 million in 2007, falling to $31 million in 2008, and $27 million in 2009, but then rebounded to $31 million in 2009.

Mike McCartney, CEO of the tourism authority, said those figures show both how much improvement the state is enjoying and how much more rebounding it will take to regain the prosperity of 2006.

"We need to keep working on it," McCartney said. "We've got a good product. We have people, place and culture. We need lokahi, everyone coming together to rebuild our industry."

The report, issued at its usual time, adds to the public discourse on the role of state funding in tourism marketing, after Gov. Neil Abercrombie proposed in his first State of the State address that some HTA funding be reduced.

Even his initial proposal, however, called for keeping most of the authority's funding, and McCartney, in a Wednesday morning appearance on HawaiiNewsNow Sunrise, said if the governor or his budget director wanted to go over the HTA budget he was ready at any time to help.

In the past year the tourism authority and its major contractor the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau have staged several promotional tours on the mainland - hotel chains have done of their own tours as well, without state funding - encouraging people in cities with direct air connections to visit Hawaii now. Bookings surged after each tour, according to Waikiki hoteliers.

Tourism officials also worked on a second front, meeting with airline executives to encourage them to add flights to Hawaii. It began to pay off in 2010 when air capacity rose 6% from 2009 levels, including a shift of 15% of Alaska Airlines air capacity to Hawaii routes, to the point where the Seattle-based carrier has more flghts to Hawaii than to Alaska.

Hawaii economist Paul Brewbaker pointed out during the recession that for Hawaii the economic downturn began, not after the Wall Street meltdown in the summer of 2008, but several month earlier when Aloha Airlines and ATA Airlines both shut down forever within three days of each other, removing a great deal of capacity from the market including most if its discount seats.

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