Despite upticks, Hawaii tourism remains weak

AP News
Posted: Nov 25, 2009 9:57 AM

Despite an uptick in the number of visitors from the West Coast and Japan, nearly 2 percent fewer tourists arrived in Hawaii in October compared to the same month last year, according to new data.

The number of total visitors for the first 10 months of the year dropped by 5.5 percent to 5.4 million compared to the same period in 2008, according to preliminary statistics by the Hawaii Tourism Authority released Tuesday.

The figures were the latest sign that the national recession continues to batter tourism, Hawaii's largest industry.

Still, the data showed positive trends, said Mike McCartney, HTA president and chief executive.

October was the sixth consecutive month of increases in visitors from the West Coast, he noted. Most of that growth came from Alaska and Oregon, while only an incremental increase in tourists came from California.

McCartney also said Hawaii's hotel occupancy rate is good compared to other destinations. Hawaii trails only New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., which are business destinations, he said.

"This is an indicator that Hawaii continues to be a desirable destination and puts Hawaii in a favorable position for when the economy recovers," McCartney added.

October's statistics showed that the number of tourists from the West Coast and Japan rose by 2.5 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively, as compared to October 2008.

But the number of visitors last month from the East Coast, Canada and other locations were either stagnant or declined, compared to a year ago. There also were 40 percent fewer cruise ship passengers debarking in Hawaii in October.

In total, almost 506,000 tourists visited the state last month _ 1.7 percent fewer than in October 2008.

By island, Oahu experienced the slightest decrease in last month, less than 1 percent. There were 1.8 percent fewer tourists in Kauai, 4 percent fewer in Maui and 4.6 percent fewer on the Big Island.

Tourist spending also continued to droop. Average spending per day decreased to $162 per person in the first 10 months of this year from $178 during the same period in 2008.