Despite headwinds, Hawaii tourism is cranking

Despite headwinds, Hawaii tourism is cranking

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii visitor spending for 2015 could reach $10 billion this week, based on new data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

As it prepared for a tourism marketing conference Thursday at the Hawaii Convention Center, the agency released figures from July showing the strong visitor arrivals month on record.

HTA counts 816,345 visitors in July, up 5.6% from last year, and their spending came to $1.42 billion, up 4% from year-before levels. The authority cited very strong traffic from the West Coast and Australia at a time when arrivals from Japan were soft.

For the first seven months of the year, HTA counts 5 million visitors, up 4.6%, staying almost 47 million days, up 4.2%, spending $9 billion, up 3.7%. Extrapolating that, and given that arrivals in August have been strong, the $10 billion spending mark should be arriving about now.

The visitor mix in July:

  • U.S. West: 813,000, up 7.2%
  • U.S. East: 186,000, up 4.9%
  • Japan: 134,000, up 2.6%
  • Canada: 27,000, up 9.5%
  • All others: 112,000, up 3.2%

Increases are compared to July 2014. "All others" includes Australia, which has been a stronger market this year, up 11%, and markets that have been softer such as Korea and Taiwan. China visitor traffic has been higher but is a small market for Hawaii so far.

Tourism has been strong despite significant headwinds, including a strong dollar that has weakened the relative value of the yen, the Australian and Canadian dollars, and other visitor home currencies. Economic uncertainty is likely to have affected the picture both ways, deterring some from spending money on vacations while enabling airlines to offer deals because of lower jet fuel bills.

Much of the extra visitor traffic from the mainland has gone to neighbor islands – 7.6% more visitors to Maui more than offset lower daily spending, while the Big Island welcomed 5.6% more visitors in July, also offsetting a lower daily spending rate. Maui hotel room rates have been higher this summer but Big Island hotels have often held rates near or slightly below 2014 levels, giving visitors more money to spend on attractions.

At the Thursday marketing conference, hoteliers, airline executives and other business people who rely on tourism converged to get briefings from the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau, Hawaii Tourism Japan, and other marketing contractors.

A record 11,000 signed up to attend.

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