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Hawaii visitor spending continues to drop as arrivals grow

May marked the seventh month in a row that more visitors came to Hawaii than the previous year while creating less economic benefit.

Arrivals have been growing since February 2017, but tourism spending has been falling every month since November.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority released preliminary visitor statistics today showing that arrivals in May rose nearly 5% to 841,376 visitors while spending decreased more than 2% to nearly $1.4 billion from a year ago.

The number of visitors on any given day in May was 226,215, up more than 2% compared to a year ago. Both arrivals and spending were up from the U.S. West and Canada, markets which tend to spend less. However, arrivals and spending were down from higher-spending markets like the U.S. East, Japan and the category of all other international markets, which includes all foreign markets outside of Japan and Canada.

Performance across the islands in May was mixed with Oahu reporting increases in arrivals and spending. Maui and Hawaii island experienced drops in spending with gains in arrivals. Spending and arrivals were up on Molokai and Lanai, while Kauai was down in both categories.

Visitor arrivals during the first five months of the year increased by nearly 4% to more than 4.2 million, while visitor spending dropped more than 3% to more than $7.2 billion.

The pattern is the opposite of the HTA’s long-established goal of attracting more high-spending visitors, who contribute to economic growth with minimal costs to infrastructure, natural resources and communities. It also reflects a longer-term trend of arrivals vastly outpacing inflation-adjusted spending.

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