Hawaii visitors still spending far more than last

By Howard Dicus

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The final state report on October tourism shows a continuation of a year-long trend: a few more visitors, spending a lot more money - about $1 billion a month.

The Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism reported Tuesday that October saw 2.3 percent more visitors than in the same month last year, spending 15.6 percent more money, $1.1 billion. In raw dollars, that meant almost $142 million more in visitor spending just in the month of October, usually considered "shoulder season" when tourism tapers off.

It brings visitor expenditures for 2011 to $10.3 billion, up 15.6 percent, with November and December still to be added in.

"New and additional airlift through 2012 also demonstrates that demand for travel to the Hawaiian Islands remains high, and is a good indicator of momentum for the visitor industry in the coming year," said Mike McCartney, president of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Visitor days were up 3 percent in October and are up 4.1 percent for the year-to-date, compared to year-ago levels, which means some visitors are staying longer, but most of the improvement is higher spending per day.

Hawaii's recession and the subsequent recovery, while slow, have been cushioned by a reasonably strong tourism industry, possibly because the affluent visitors who dominate Hawaii vacation traffic were less likely to suffer major financial losses in the slump. But there has been a shift in traffic, with softer volume from the U.S. mainland and more from Canada, Australia and South Korea, all places where the local currencies are strong compared to the U.S. dollar.

In recent months it has taken fewer than 80 yen to buy a dollar - three years ago it was closer to 115 - while the Canadian and Australian dollars have been trading near parity with the U.S. dollar and sometimes a little stronger.

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