Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

According to a report released Jan. 28 by Hawaii's Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, spending by visitors who arrived by air in 2008 totaled $11.3 billion, down 9.9%, or $1.2 billion.

Annual arrival figures also dropped significantly. About 6.8 million visitors traveled to Hawaii in 2008 by air or ship, a decline of nearly 11% from 2007. Last year marks the first time since 2004 that annual arrivals were less than 7 million visitors.

Shrinking airline seat totals to Hawaii certainly didn't help any. Available air seats fell 10.2%, to 9.3 million, and load factor was down 1.1 percentage points, to 85.8%.

"Hawaii experienced an exceptional first quarter in 2008, which helped offset the challenges that the world economic crisis has had on the visitor industry and our economy," said Marsha Wienert, state tourism liaison. "The results for the year and for December were expected; however, we continue to believe that in spite of the challenges, opportunities exist. By continuing to work together, we will get through this, and our tourism sector will be stronger and healthier than ever."

Few bright spots existed in the report, but visitor totals from Canada were up 3.3% across the state in 2008, and arrivals from countries other than the U.S., Japan and Canada grew 3% from 2007's totals.

"The Canadian market was excellent in 2008, and we need to continue to nurture it. Additionally, growth opportunities exist in many developing markets, especially Korea and China," Wienert said. "The value of a Hawaii vacation has never been better, and we need to convince mainland travelers that now is the time to visit our islands."

According to a weekly hotel industry snapshot completed by Hospitality Research and Smith Travel Research, room rates across Hawaii stood at $186 for the week ending Jan. 30, down 6.4% compared with the same week in 2008.


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