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More visitors coming, but they are spending less

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    Japanese visitor Maki Metoki

A record number of visitors traveled to the Hawaiian Islands in September, but many of them spent less per day causing a 1.2 percent decline in total visitor spending, according to preliminary statistics released today by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA). 

The spending decline was partially due to the mix of visitors. September arrivals rose 4.7 percent to 652,616 visitors; however, the growth was lead by visitors from the U.S. West and Canada, markets that typically spend less than Japan, the U.S. East, and other foreign origination spots. 

According to the HTA, U.S. West arrivals grew 6.3 percent to 248,646 visitors in September and arrivals from Canada grew 4.2 percent to 20,504 visitors. Arrivals from the category called all other markets, including Asian nations outside of Japan, Oceania, Europe and Latin America, rose 4.3 percent to 112,332 visitors. These gains offset scant declines from the U.S. East and Japan, which fell to 109,813 and 137,156 visitors respectively. 

While more visitors came to Hawaii this September than last, they spent 3.2 percent less per day, keeping average daily spending at $196 and total monthly visitor spending just under $1.1 billion. 

Visitors from Hawaii’s core market, the U.S. West, actually increased their daily spending by 4.6 percent to $166 per person. However, gains from the less lucrative U.S. West market could not completely compensate for spending drops from more lucrative markets like the U.S. East, which experienced a 2.2 percent drop in daily spending and the Japan market, whose daily spending fell a dramatic 14.2 percent. 

The importance of visitor mix becomes clear when noting that even with their spending declines visitors from higher spending markets still spent significantly more on a daily basis than their North American counterparts. In comparison, visitors from the U.S. East spent $203 per person per day, while visitors from Japan spent $244 per day, and those from the category called all others spent $240. 

While all islands experienced arrivals growth, the drop in international visitors was felt more readily on Oahu and Hawaii Island, which were the only two islands to post September spending declines. September arrivals on Kauai rose 4.7 percent and spending increased by 8.6 percent. Maui arrivals achieved a 4.3 percent gain in September, and the island experienced a 5.7 percent spending increase. Arrivals for Hawaii island grew 2.1 percent, but September spending fell 6.2 percent. On Oahu September arrivals increased 1.3 percent; however, spending fell 4.7 percent. 

Since Hawaii is a mostly fly-to destination, September’s mix of air seats contributed to market gains and losses. Total air seats to Hawaii rose to 881,549, a 2.1 percent gain from the same month last year. Growth in scheduled seats from Canada, Oceania, U.S. West, and Japan offset a 4.9 percent drop in available capacity from Asian nations outside of Japan. 

Arrivals by cruise ship grew 84.2 percent to 24,165 visitors, with 13 cruise ships arriving in September 2015 compared to eight ships in September 2014. 

September kept the North-American performance trend going, contributing to positive year-to-date results. Through the first nine months of 2015, total arrivals rose 4.1 percent and visitor spending increased 2.6 percent to $11.3 billion. 

George D. Szigeti, HTA president and CEO, said visitor arrivals have remained strong for the first nine months of the year, pacing just slightly above projections. However, Szigeti growth in spending is beginning to plateau.

For the first nine months of the year, growth in arrivals from the U.S. West, which have climbed 7.5 percent year-to-date, and the U.S. East, which rose 2 percent year-to-date, offset a 1 percent drop from Japan visitors.

A 6.9 percent rise in year-to-date expenditures by visitors from the U.S. West, who spent $4 billion through September, and a 3.6 percent gain from visitors from Canada, who spent $804.7 million through September, balanced other drops. Through the first nine months of the year, spending from U.S. East visitors fell 1.7 percent to $2.8 billion and spending by visitors from Japan dropped 10.1 percent to $1.6 billion. 

"With lower domestic fuel prices, we anticipate seeing continued growth from our core U.S. markets. However, we will continue to monitor unstable economic conditions in Canada, Japan and China, which could also impact other regions in the Asia-Pacific and our major market areas," Szigeti said.

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