Hawaii visitor spending jumps 10 percent in January - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaii visitor spending jumps 10 percent in January

(image: Hawaii News Now/file) (image: Hawaii News Now/file)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Last month, Hawaii visitors spent $1.6 billion during trips to the islands, nearly $100 millon more than in January of the previous year.

"The spending went up from the U.S. west, and it went up 26.6% with Japan," Hawaii Tourism Authority president George Szigeti said. "That's a huge jump in spending. We're excited about that."

More than 756,000 tourists came to the state in January, smashing the record set a year ago. The number included nearly 8,000 more Japanese visitors following the December launch of a direct flight from Tokyo to Kona.

"That flight from Haneda through Hawaiian Air has really helped us," Szigeti said. 

Waikiki still is the big draw, but tourists are looking for different experiences.

"We just come and enjoy the beauty, the hikes, the waterfalls," said vacationer Judy Gridley. 

Tourism experts say they're cautiously optimistic as they continue to look ahead.

"Obviously, if there is tumult in the world, you can't predict, that always affects tourism because it's a leisure business," said David Carey, advisory board member for Outrigger Hotels and Resorts. "Right now, crossed fingers we are in good shape. 

The industry, though, will be challenged to top last year's tourism numbers, which hit nearly 9 million visitors.

"We had the IUCN. We had the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. These are one time events that saw a spike in the last half of the year," Szigeti said. "So now our job is to fill those voids and have a strong second-half in 2017." 

Each of the Hawaiians Islands hosted more tourists in January compared to last year, but there was fall off in visitors from Australia, Europe and Latin America.

The Big Island will get a boost this summer, when United Airlines launches a direct flight from Denver to Kona.

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