Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

*logoSpending by visitors arriving to Hawaii by air during the first five months of 2009 has plunged 16.4%.

According to a report released by Hawaii's Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, 2.6 million visitors arrived to the islands by air through May of this year -- down 10.5% from the same five-month stretch in 2008 -- and spent $4.1 billion.

Spending during May alone sank 15%, to $754.8 million. Air visitors for the month dropped 6.4%, to 514,000.

"May's visitor statistics continue to reflect global economic challenges that are affecting Hawaii," said state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert in a statement. "Additionally, concern over the H1N1 flu virus has impacted visitor arrivals and caused a double-digit decrease in visitors from Japan."

Average daily visitor spending for the month stood at $165, falling about $20 from May 2008's daily expenditure figures.

"Hawaii's visitor industry is continuing to compete for travelers through very attractive package pricing, which is helping to encourage travel to the islands," Wienert continued. "The health of Hawaii's visitor industry and our economy, moving forward, will be dependent on increasing visitor spending. Decreased spending is affecting our activities, restaurants and retail businesses as well as our accommodations."

The report did, however, include a few bright spots.

"Visitor arrivals from the Pacific states, Hawaii's largest source of visitors, rose 5.4% compared to May 2008," Wienert added. "California arrivals increased 1.9%, Oregon 1.6% and Washington state arrivals grew by 18.5%."

Among Hawaii's top four markets, in fact, the West Coast was up 4% from May 2008, the first increase seen from the region since a 1% year-over-year gain in February 2008.

The state's other three top markets all posted losses. The East Coast dropped 8.9% and Japan sank 15%, while Canada plunged 12.4%, the country's largest decrease since April 2004.

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