Hawaii reports 6.4% increase in mainland U.S. visitors in 1999

HONOLULU -- The number of mainland U.S. visitors who took vacations to Hawaii in 1999 rose sharply compared with 1998.

Mainland visitors numbered 3.7 million in 1999, a 6.4% increase over 1998 figures, according to the state's Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT).

The growth in visitors from the U.S. mainland was from such areas as Chicago, Texas and the East Coast states. Overall visitor numbers to Hawaii rose 1.6% in 1999, to 6.8 million.

The overall increase of a little more than 110,000 visitors came despite a large drop in the number of visitors from Asia. Visitor numbers from Asia, including the once red-hot Japanese market, were down 5.9% for the year, to 2.3 million.

Total visitors coming from Western nations, including the U.S., rose by 6.1%, to 4.5 million.

By island, Kauai had the largest percentage increase in visitors, 4.9%, to a little more than 1 million, followed by Oahu with a 0.3% increase, to 4.73 million. Visitors to Maui decreased by 1.8%, to 2.26 million; Molokai was down 6.2%, to 68,410. Lanai was down 3.9%, to 90,720, and the Big Island was down 0.8%, to 1.25 million.

Westbound visitors tended to stay longer on vacation in Hawaii, about 10 days on average, compared with almost six days on average for eastbound visitors.

"Additionally, the number of first-time visitors increased to account for 41.6% of total visitors," said Seiji Naya, DBEDT director. Naya said the number of visitors coming for conventions rose 12% in 1999 compared with 1998.

In 1998, airlines carrying westbound passengers added capacity on the order of 237,135 additional seats, the DBEDT said. In 1999 visitors paid on average $131 per night for a hotel room, which was up just a couple of dollars from an average of $129 per night in 1998.

In the lodging sector, bed-and-breakfast establishments had 10.6% fewer customers, and the number of condominium customers was down 2.3%.

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