Despite Japan crisis, Hawaii tourism grew in March - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Despite Japan crisis, Hawaii tourism grew in March

By Howard Dicus - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii visitor arrivals in March came in 4.2 percent higher than last year, and spending rose 11.8 percent, despite a plunge in Japan arrivals after the earthquake, tsunami and radiation leaks that began March 11.

March visitor spending was up more than half from Canada, to almost $124 million, and rose 7 percent from foreign countries other than Japan and Canada, to $129 million, while Japanese visitor spending fell 4 percent to $149 million, the Hawaii Tourism Authority reported Thursday.

For the first quarter of 2011, visitor arrivals rose 9.1 percent, visitor days rose 10.8 percent, and visitor spending rose 16.9 percent, to $3.2 billion, the authority reported Thursday.

That included $980.7 million in visitor spending just in March.

Visitor spending rose to all islands.

"The month of March represents the 11th consecutive month of double-digit increase in overall spending," said HTA President Mike McCartney.

Even Japan visitor growth was in double digit percentages when the entire quarter was tallied, and Hawaii enjoyed higher visitor traffic from U.S. West, U.S. East, and Canada, 20.7 percent more visitors from Asia, 10.5 percent more from Oceania, and increases from Europe and Latin America as well.

Canadian visitor spending is up significantly, in part due to a strong Canadian dollar.

The higher metrics were especially noteworthy because much of Spring Break moved from March (in 2010) to April (in 2011) and will not be counted until the April figures are released a month from now. California schools scheduled their spring break in April.

March saw 1.3 percent fewer visitors from California, offset by higher spending, while visitor traffic rose 5 percent from Seattle and 18 percent from Portland. Visitor traffic was down from the Washington, D.C., area but up from almost all other regions east of the Rockies.

"Based on the overall positive month," McCartney said, "our strategy to leverage opportunities from Hawaii's multiple MMAs has contributed to stabilizing Hawaii's tourism economy and preserving jobs." MMA is major market area.

Air capacity from Japan has been lower than usual since the earthquake, but not as much as to other destinations. Japan Airlines cut one of its three Tokyo Narita flights to Honolulu but kept the other two, as well as three flights daily starting in Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo Haneda, respectively, and even the third Narita flight was temporarily restored for Golden Week, a traditional bump in Japan traffic.

Golden Week begins Friday.

Honeymoon visitor traffic is up more than 7 percent to Hawaii so far this year.

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