2016 was another record year for Hawaii tourism

Published: Jan. 30, 2017 at 5:01 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 30, 2017 at 11:15 PM HST
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(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The booming tourism industry saw record tourism arrivals and spending in 2016, new figures show.

It's the fifth straight year of record growth in both categories.

Some 8.9 million visitors came to the islands in 2016, a 3 percent increase from 2015, the Hawaii Tourism Authority said Monday. On average, there were about 220,000 visitors in the state on any given day.

Some argue there may be too many visitors in the islands. HTA's board chairman says there needs to be a balance.

"There needs to be a discussion as we go along...what is too much? Unfortunately, it's such a big driver of jobs that when it backs off, locals often say, 'wait, we're not able to get work,'" said Rick Fried, who is also a prominent local attorney.

The growth was driven by an uptick in visitors from the U.S. West and East and Korea.

Meanwhile, visitor spending grew 4.2 percent in 2016, to $15.6 billion.

The gains in spending were seen on Maui, the Big Island and Kauai. While Oahu saw the total number of arrivals grow in 2016, average daily spending saw a 1 percent decline.

HTA officials said the growth in visitor numbers shows no signs of stopping, but it comes amid increasing concerns about the impacts of tourism on Hawaii's infrastructure and destinations.

In December, Hawaii saw 828,473 visitors, a 3.6 increase from the year before.

"We are committed to maintaining this positive momentum in 2017," said George Szigeti, HTA president and CEO, "while also assessing as to how HTA can collaborate with industry partners and community advocates to ensure that promoting tourism is balanced with the perpetuation of Hawaiian culture and protection of Hawaii's natural resources."

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