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Palace sees record high in visitors and revenue

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Iolani Palace took in $103,011 in ticket revenue last month, the first single-month ticket take in excess of $100,000. The previous high was last July’s $93,173.

That month’s record-setting turnstile tally of 8,257 was shattered in June when 8,693 visitors paid an average of $11.80 and donned booties to tour the only official royal residence in the United States. (The Queen Emma Summer Palace in Nuuanu and Hulihee Palace in Kona were auxiliary homes.)

Whether it is Iolani Palace‘s history, the visages of long-gone alii, or the reverent example set by assiduously trained docents, one finds oneself speaking in respectful, hushed tones once inside.

Some 43,957 visitors quietly padded through the palace in the first six months of this year, 13.3 percent more than the same period last year.

Neither the recession nor resulting visitor downturn hurt the palace, said Executive Director Kippen de Alba Chu. "From 2007, we’ve actually just had increase after increase every year. The downturn didn’t affect us at all," he said.

Counts were so robust that in March the palace added Monday tours.

Hawaii Tourism Authority grants of $100,000 in each of two years beginning in 2007 enabled the palace to enlist marketing help, and the Limtiaco Co. has been getting the palace coverage, naturally in key magazines such as National Geographic and Smithsonian, but also travel-oriented magazines in markets rich in Hawaii visitors. "These are human interest stories, cultural stories, so it makes them want to read and then they come, they seek us out," de Alba Chu said.

Local coverage of artifacts’ return to the palace begets more attendance, as has the movie "Princess Kaiulani."

Schoolchildren have continued to come in steady numbers, and while annual visitor counts earlier in the decade were around 50,000 to 60,000, "today we’re getting close to doubling that number," de Alba Chu said.

Hawaii residents who’ve never been or who’ve not been since small-kid time can take the tour anew, for free, with a valid photo ID on Kamaaina Sundays.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Advertiser. Reach her by e-mail at


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