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March visitor performance rebounds

  • photo by Dennis Oda on March 26

Visitor arrivals and spending rebounded in March largely due to gains from North America.

Total visitor arrivals grew 7 percent year-over-year to 780,056 visitors, according to preliminary statistics released today by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Total visitor spending also increased 3 percent to $1.3 billion from March of 2014. Likewise, air capacity to the Hawaiian Islands rose by 6.5 percent year-over-year to 1.04 million seats.

As a result, March was the first month of 2015 that experienced a climb in both spending and arrivals. March’s industry performance also helped push year-to-date arrivals up 3 percent to 2.1 million visitors. However, visitor spending through March dropped 1.3 percent to $3.8 billion. 

“Visitor expenditures for the state’s lead economic driver have plateaued during the first quarter of 2015 following three years of significant growth. However, with increased air seat inventory and spring break falling earlier this year, visitor arrivals increased…”said Ron Williams, chief executive officer of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

To be sure, March arrivals from Hawaii’s core U.S. West market grew 13.3 percent year-over-year to 303,827 visitors. Spending from this market also climbed 12.1 percent to $434.2 million. Likewise, visitor arrivals from the U.S. East rose 2. 6 percent to 170,013; however, lower daily spending contributed to a 1.8 percent drop in visitor spending from this market which fell to $299.7 million. According to HTA, a higher number of available air seats and a shift in spring break vacation schedules for West Coast schools from April in 2014 to March in 2015 contributed to this growth.

Canadian arrivals also increased 4.3 percent to 77,237 visitors. Thanks to increases in length of stay and daily spending, overall visitor expenditures from Canada rose 15.9 percent to $162.5 million.

Japan, Hawaii’s largest international market, continued struggling with a 5.7 percent drop in arrivals, which fell to 127,400. Lower daily spending from this market also caused overall visitor spending by visitors from Japan to drop 21.7 percent to $165.6 million. The HTA attributes Japan’s decline to several factors, including: the depreciation of the yen against the dollar and a refocus on domestic travel with the launch of the Hokuriku bullet train, and the emergence of hotels and other infrastructure built for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Arrivals from all other markets, including Europe, Oceania, Latin America and Asian countries outside of Japan, rose 15.7 percent to 86,880 visitors. Likewise, spending from these markets increased 10.6 percent to $196 million. 

“Since the U.S. dollar remains strong in some of our major international markets, we continue to work with our global contractors to roll out innovative campaigns like airline mileage promotions and other brand partnerships to ease the cost of travel to Hawaii,” Williams said. 

Eight out-of-state cruise ships with 14,698 visitors came in March 2015; an increase of 38.8 percent from last March when five ships came with 10,592 visitors. This was the first month of growth following six months of double-digit declines.

Going forward, Williams said HTA is pleased to welcome additional airlift from its core U.S. market with Virgin America’s inaugural flights to Oahu and Maui this fall.

“These routes will help to increase access and arrivals to the state and enhance HTA’s efforts to balance visitor distribution to all of the Hawaiian Islands,” he said. “We continue to work with our global contractors and airline partners to sustain this boost in airlift and identify potential markets for growth.”

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