May tourism: a bump, not a slump

May tourism: a bump, not a slump

By: Howard Dicus

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) More than 700,000 people visited Hawaii in May, including 11,000 on cruise ships. Their collective spending topped $1.2 billion.

It worked out to arrivals up 9.3%, visitor days up 6% to 8% depending on the island, and visitor spending up 10.4%, more than enough to cover inflation and rising hotel rates and leave something over for restaurants, shopping and activities.

"We continue to focus on distributing visitors statewide through increased direct air access, and highlighting the unique attributes of reach of the islands as visitors look for authentic experiences," said George Szigeti, the new CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority. The simplest explanation for this strategy is that Waikiki runs full most of the time but the other islands have extra rooms to sell.

The May bump was mostly domestic. Arrivals were up 6.6% from Oregon, 7.1% from Washington state, and 13% from California, and visitor traffic was up 9% from the South and up 11% from the Northeast.

The distribution of visitors to which Szigeti refers is evident already. Since 2015 began, more than 2 million people have flown to Honolulu, but Kahului arrivals have topped 1 million. More than 600,000 have flown to Kona since the year began, and 475,000 Lihue. Visitor traffic to both the Big Island and Kauai is about about 30,000 visitors from last year at this point.

The international visitor market is mixed. Canadian traffic eased as it generally does in warmer months. Hawaii welcomed 112,000 visitors from Japan, up 3.6%, but their collective spending actually diminished 3.1%. Traffic was up about 13% from Australia, both for May alone and for the year to date. Australia has sent 127,000 visitors to Hawaii so far this year.

More than 70,000 people have flown here from Korea since the year began, but that is down 9.8%. Chinese arrivals for the year to date, up 4.3%, are close to that level: 67,000. By contrast fewer than 50,000 people have come here from Europe since the year began, and that's up 7.2%.

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