Hawaii tourism execs forecast drop in arrivals

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HONOLULU -- The number of visitors to Hawaii in 2001 will show a 7.6% drop compared with 2000, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA).

This year, visitor numbers are expected to reach 6.4 million, down from 6.9 million last year.

Before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the HTA had predicted 7.1 million tourists would visit the islands by year's end. The HTA made the assessment of visitor figures in its recently revised Tourism Strategic Plan.

"Our numbers were down 34% in September [from the previous year] and it looks like they will be down 25% in October, so we should be down somewhere around 7% for the year," said Pearl Imada-Iboshi, a state economist who forecasted the visitor figures for the HTA.

"Next year, we are looking at a soft first half and then a stronger second half of the year," added Imada-Iboshi.

The HTA also revised its projections of visitor numbers for the coming years. For 2002, the HTA previously had predicted visitor numbers would be about 7.3 million. The authority said it is now hoping for 6.6 million visitors next year.

The HTA said it won't be until 2004 that visitor numbers will surpass last year's record of 6.9 million. The authority is predicting 7.1 million visitors in 2004.

When asked how much of the revision had to do with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Imada-Iboshi said, "All of it."

The HTA's goal has been to increase the state's visitor numbers by 3% to 4% per year. But with the predicted drop for this year, those growth patterns were derailed.

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