Hawaii saw more than 10M visitors last year, but not everyone is celebrating

GF Default - Tourism (but not much else) is booming in Hawaii. Here's why that's a problem
GF Default - Tourism (but not much else) is booming in Hawaii. Here's why that's a problem
Published: Jan. 30, 2020 at 4:19 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the first time in 2019, Hawaii saw more than 10 million visitors to its shores ― a widely-expected milestone that’s drawn concerns about over-tourism.

Figures released this week put the total number of visitors to Hawaii last year at 10,424,995. That’s up more than 5% from the year before.

On any given day in 2019, there were nearly 250,000 visitors in Hawaii on average.

[Read more: A top CEO’s prescription for Hawaii’s tourism-driven economy: It’s time to diversify]

Hawaii’s visitor arrivals have been soaring for years amid a stronger national and global economy. The Hawaii Tourism Authority said that visitors to the islands spent $17.8 billion last year, up 1% from 2018.

Oahu saw visitor spending grow nearly 3% to $8 billion along with a 5% increase in visitors ― to 6.2 million. Maui and the Big Island also saw visitor arrivals grow, while Kauai saw a small decline.

As the number of visitors have soared in recent years, more lawmakers and residents have expressed concerns about their impact on public infrastructure, the cost of living ― and the quality of life.

Councilwoman Kymberly Pine has been among those calling for more study on how the state is shouldering the increase in visitors.

“We’re getting to a point that if we don’t as a city get involved in managing our tourism better then the residents are going to start turning against our no. 1 economy," she said in October.

But tourism officials point out that the increase in visitors have filled government coffers with tax revenues. HTA said that spending by visitors last year generated $2 billion in state tax revenue alone.

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