By AUDREY McAVOY
HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii economists are predicting steady economic growth this year, but are warning of challenges lying ahead.
Eugene Tian of the state tourism and economic development department says Hawaii's economy should expand by 2 to 2.5 percent in 2016.
He says the tourism industry is getting a boost from the introduction of more flights from cities like San Francisco and Seoul, South Korea.
But he says the construction industry's momentum is weakening, as evidenced by a building permit application slowdown.
Tian says visitor spending is on a long-term declining trend when inflation is taken into account. He says real visitor spending has decreased 0.7 percent a year on average from 1997 to 2014.
Economist Paul Brewbaker says shrinking visitor spending is Hawaii's single most important strategic economic development.