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Hawaii visitor arrivals, spending see record numbers

Allison Schaefers

Hawaii’s visitor industry realized its fifth consecutive year for visitor arrivals, visitor spending and generated tax revenue last year, according to preliminary statistics released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) today.

A record 8.9 million visitors came to the state in 2016 topping last year’s high by 3 percent , according to preliminary data released Monday by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Visitor spending for the year rose just over 4 percent to a record $15.6 billion. For December, visitor arrivals increased nearly 4 percent to 828,473 visitors while spending rose over 5 percent to $1.7 billion . The strong finish helped 2016 continue the trend started in 2012 of spending and arrivals setting simultaneous year-end records.

HTA President and CEO George D. Szigeti said in a statement that tourism revenue has had a major impact on Hawaii’s private and public sectors. Szigeti said the number of tourism industry supported jobs supported increased to an estimated 190,000, about 15,000 more jobs than 2015.

“We are committed to maintaining this positive momentum in 2017, while also assessing as to how HTA can collaborate with industry partners and community advocates to ensure that promoting tourism is balanced with the perpetuation of Hawaiian culture and protection of Hawaii’s natural resources,” Szigeti said.

Strong year-round performance from Hawaii’s core U.S. West market, which saw arrivals grow 11 out of 12 months last year, drove 2016’s tourism successes. Altogether, the U.S. west welcomed nearly 3.7 million visitors, up just over 4 percent from 2015. These U.S. West visitors spent a combined $5.6 billion, an increase of just over 6 percent from 2015. Another hot market was the U.S. East, which saw arrivals grow nearly 4 percent to nearly 1.9 million visitors, while spending grew almost 5 percent to $3.8 billion.

While Korea is still a relatively small market for Hawaii, it experienced a 27 percent jump in visitor arrivals to 245,857.Visitors from all international markets outside of Japan and Canada grew just over 6 percent to 1.3 million and their spending increased just over 6 percent to $3.1 billion.

There gains were enough to offset Hawaii’s largest international market Japan, which saw visitor arrivals remain below 1.5 million and spending rise just above 2 percent to $2.1 billion. They also helped balance decreases from the mature Canada market, which saw visitor arrivals fall nearly 7 percent to 478,871 visitors and spending drop 9 percent to just over $958 million.

Air seats into Hawaii grew a scant .7 percent to just over 12 million seats. While Oahu lost some seats, more came into Kahului, Kona, Lihue and Hilo. Arrivals by air rose just above 3 percent to 8.8 million. But cruise ship arrivals fell nearly 7 percent to 108,976 visitors in 2016, due to eight fewer cruise ships arriving in 2016 as compared to 2015.

Visitors who came to Hawaii in 2016 to attend a meeting, convention or take an incentive trip fell 1 percent to 493,676. However, nearly 2 percent more visitors came to honeymoon in 2016, which welcomed 597,761 of these lovebirds.

The number of visitors who came to Hawaii in 2016 and stayed in a hotel grew nearly 4 percent to 5.5 million, but vacation rentals realized the largest capacity increase growing just over 7 percent to 680,787. The number of people who chose to stay with friends and relatives also increased nearly 3 percent to 785,932.

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