Hawaii’s visitor industry finished 2014 with its third consecutive year of spending and arrivals records.
Nearly 8.3 million visitors came to Hawaii in 2014, exceeding last year’s record 8.17 million visitors by 1.3 percent, according to preliminary statistics released on Thursday by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Annual 2014 non-seasonally adjusted visitor spending grew 2.3 percent to $14.7 billion, which was up from $14.4 billion from 2013. On average, 205,044 visitors were in the state on any given day in 2014, an increase of 1.1 percent from 2013.
While spending and arrivals only grew marginally from 2013, they still came in better than expected exceeding the 8.25 million visitor target and the $14.69 billion spending target that were set in August. Total air seat capacity to Hawaii grew 3.4 percent to 11.26 million seats. Increases to Honolulu, Kahului, Kona and Lihue, offset a decline in seats to Hilo.
“By increasing visitor arrivals and spending to the majority of the Hawaiian Islands we have been able to grow the benefits of tourism statewide, reinforcing our efforts to diversify Hawaii’s tourism economy by distributing visitors across the state,” said Ron Williams, HTA’s CEO.
Results also were partially due to rebounding in the second half of the year from Hawaii’s top U.S. West market, which finally turned around after 11 months of losses. For the year, U.S. West arrivals grew 1.4 percent to nearly 3.26 million visitors. Spending from these visitors rose 3.2 percent to $5 billion. At the same time, Hawaii’s second largest U.S. East market also posted year-end growth. Arrivals from the U.S. East grew 1.1 percent to nearly 1.72 million in 2014 and visitor spending increased 4.1 percent to $3.7 billion.
“Visitor arrivals from Hawaii’s core North America market picked up during the second half of the year, supported by increased seat inventory, which provided more options for connectivity and resulted in lower airfares due to increased competition in the market,” Williams said. “As oil prices remain low, airlines continue to improve their operational costs, which we anticipate will lead to continued growth in air seats and arrivals from North America through the first half of this year.”
Japan, Hawaii’s largest international market, saw a .5 percent drop in arrivals, which ended the year at 1.5 million. The decrease contributed to a 2.9 percent drop in visitor spending, which fell to $2.4 billion.
“This slowdown is largely due to an unstable economy and weakening Japanese yen, which we continue to actively monitor and respond to in an effort to sustain this important market,” Williams said. “Our smaller international markets however are faring well.”
While spending from Canada, a mature international market for Hawaii dropped .5 percent to $1.1 billion in 2014, arrivals rose 1.3 percent to 523,534.
While Latin American arrivals stayed flat at 30,303 in 2014, there also was growth in arrivals from other smaller international markets, including Oceania, which grew 5.9 percent to 376,704 visitors; Asian, countries outside of Japan, which rose 8.5 percent to 363,528 arrivals; and Europe, which saw arrivals increase 4.6 percent to 143,132. Combined spending by visitors from these smaller international markets rose 5.3 percent to $2.6 billion.
Cruise ship visitors in 2014 fell 28 percent to 123,071, while spending fell 31.2 percent to $41.3 million.
A strong December also strongly contributed to the year-end results. As many as 765,267 visitors, 6.2 percent more than in 2013, came to Hawaii in December. These visitors pumped $1.4 billion or 3 percent more into the local economy than they did in 2013.