In a first, Hawaii tourism on track to surpass 10 million visitor arrivals this year
Hawaii tourism stayed on pace in October to easily top the 10 million mark for visitor arrivals this year and extend a decade-long string of annual gains.
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Hawaii tourism stayed on pace in October to easily top the 10 million mark for visitor arrivals this year and
extend a decade-long string of annual gains.
The Hawaii Tourism
Authority released preliminary data Wednesday showing that 4.8% more tourists came to the state last month compared with a year earlier.
This gain equated to 36,775 more visitor arrivals, or 800,448 in October, compared with 763,673 in the same month last year, and
reflected more tourists
coming from the mainland, Japan, Canada and other countries.
Barring a calamity, it’s pretty certain that for the first time in Hawaii history more than 10 million tourists will visit the state.
Through October, visitor arrivals reached nearly
8.7 million, which was 5.5% more than the 8.2 million arrivals during the same period last year. For all of last year, the total reached 9.9 million.
However, another industry benchmark — how much tourists spend while in Hawaii — could still end the year up or down.
This measure had been down for seven out of the first nine months of 2019. But last month, a small gain pushed year-to-date spending by tourists into positive territory for the first time this year.
Spending by visitors
last month rose 0.9%, or
$12 million, to $1.325 billion from $1.313 billion a year
The other two months this year with increased visitor spending were June and July. Until June, visitor spending had been lower for seven straight months in a worrisome trend.
October’s small increase put the year-to-date spending figure up by $34.7 million, or a relatively scant 0.2% amid nearly $14.7 billion spent during the first
10 months of the year.
Visitor spending has
been weak this year because tourists have generally
been spending less individually.
Keith Vieira, a local visitor industry consultant, said generating more spending from the average tourist — instead of boosting total spending simply by attracting more tourists who
spend the same or less on average — has been a difficult goal for the industry to achieve.
“That’s an ongoing challenge for the destination,” he said. “We cannot have more and more visitors who are spending less and less.”
HTA’s long-established goal has been to attract
who contribute more to
the state’s economy as opposed to achieving a bigger contribution to economic growth from more visitors who spend less but have greater impacts on infrastructure, natural resources and communities.
Vieira, who runs KV &Associates Hospitality Consulting, said lower per-visitor spending is largely due to tourists staying in alternative accommodations that include illegal vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods, which can also reduce spending in restaurants if those tourists cook store-bought food in their rented homes.
The City and County of
Honolulu in June began enforcing a new ordinance designed to crack down on
illegal vacation home rentals. Still, average spending by visitors remains down.
In October, the average
Hawaii tourist spent $197 a day, down from about $202 a day in the same month last year, according to HTA’s report. For the first 10 months of this year, average spending per visitor was about $195 compared with $200 in the same period last year.
Besides lodging and food, visitor spending includes shopping, car rentals, interisland travel and other expenditures tourists make while in Hawaii.
Vieira said he’s talked with travel wholesalers and hoteliers who expect some softness in Hawaii tourism to end the year. He added though that this could be limited.
Michael Rice, an operations manager for Segway of Hawaii in Kakaako, said business has fluctuated since
October, though he expects December to be better.
“I’d say it’s better than last year,” Rice said of the year in general, moments after a group of visitors from Japan left on a guided tour to Magic Island.