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Visitor arrivals up 5.6% in February, spending up 8.5%

By Allison Schaefers

LAST UPDATED: 12:19 p.m. HST, Mar 29, 2012

The extra-leap day in February and air seat gains helped push total visitor spending up 8.5 percent and total arrivals up by 5.6 percent last month, according to preliminary statistics released today by the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Some 626,367 visitors came to Hawaii last month and spent $1.09 billion or approximately $183 per-person-per-day, which equated to about $4 more per day than they spent in February 2011.

"We are happy that the momentum for our tourism economy remains strong. At this point, we are happy with the pace and we are exceeding our targets," said Mike McCartney, HTA president and CEO. "One thing we have to be mindful of going into the future is changing global conditions like the price of oil. We remain optimistic about Hawaii's potential for the future."

Total spending by visitors from the U.S. East Market dropped by 1.9 percent; however, visitors originating from the U.S. West, Canada, Japan, cruise ships, and all other markets spent more this February than they did during the same month last year.

Arrivals rose across all major markets and all islands. Every island except Molokai realized spending gains.

"It's good that the numbers aren't just centered on Oahu and that the increases are spread statewide," said Ron Williams, HTA chairperson and CEO of Atlantis Adventures.

Visitors from Hawaii's core U.S. West market rose 3.8 percent to 221,879. While arrivals from the U.S. East, Hawaii's higher spending domestic market, only rose by 1.8 percent to 144,229. Visitor counts from Japan, Hawaii's largest international market, increased 4.7 percent to 107,754. Visitor arrivals from Canada jumped by 9.6 percent to 64,230.

Hawaii's cruise ship visitors rose by 22.3 percent to 17,586 arrivals, the state welcomed 70,689 visitors from all other markets, a lump sum category that includes the burgeoning Korea and China markets as well as Oceania, Europe and South America. The 14.6 percent gain in this category show the success of Hawaii's tourism diversification efforts which are aimed at picking up more first-time visitors. In February, 65.9 percent of Hawaii's visitors had been here before and most of them had made an average of five trips.

Love was a popular reason to come to Hawaii in February as indicated by a 26.1 percent year-over-year gain in honeymooners to 38,263 visitors. Similarly, visitors who came to Hawaii in February to get married grew by 6.5 percent to 10,507.

However, fewer visitors came to Hawaii for business last month.  Visitors who came to the isles for a convention dropped by 12.6 percent year-over-year. Likewise, visitors who came to Hawaii to attend a corporate meeting dropped by 10.6 percent and those that came as part of a business incentive dropped by 25.3 percent.

A 5.8 percent increase in total air seats directly contributed to February's gains. A 27.1 percent gain in seats to the Lihue airport helped boost Kauai's visitor arrivals by 6.9 percent. A 10. 3 percent gain in air seats to Kahului helped Maui's arrivals grow by 4.3 percent. Kona's 3.7-percent air seat gain contributed to a 3.2 percent rise in Hawaii Island visitors. Air seats to Honolulu grew 2.5 percent corresponding with a 5.2 percent jump in arrivals. A 2.8 percent rise in charter seats further bolstered arrivals.

Without the Feb. 29 leap day, the average daily census for visitor arrivals would have been 2.5 percent above the prior year and spending would be adjusted to $1.06 billion, which would have been 4.7 percent higher than the February 2011 results.

Still, February's performance contributed to an 11.4 percent increase in visitor expenditures to $2.44 billion for the first two months of 2012; and total arrivals rose 6.7 percent to 1,269,983 visitors.

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