U.S. visitors flocking to Hawaii

HONOLULU -- The number of visitors to Hawaii from the mainland was up 6% in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year, according to the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

"The dramatic surge in visitors firmly sets us on the path to a record year," said Seiji Naya, director of the DBEDT.

Last year the state received 6.8 million total visitors with approximately 4 million from the mainland.

David Preece, vice president North America with the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau, said mainland tour operators are predicting a big year for travel to Hawaii.

"We anticipate we will get growth patterns throughout the rest of the year that are similar to the first quarter numbers, and that's based on advance bookings with the wholesalers," said Preece.

The only hitch in that scenario is tied to the U.S. economy.

"In the last year, I think people have gotten used to the wild swings in the stock market, and the only problem we might face is a long-term recession, but I don't see that happening," said Preece.

In the first quarter of this year, 1.4 million Americans visited Hawaii compared to 1.3 million in the same period last year.

Airlines have added new flights to Hawaii from the continental U.S., increasing the number of scheduled seats by 7.1% during the first quarter compared to the same period last year.

Aloha, TWA, United and Hawaiian all have added flights this year.

The West Coast has traditionally been Hawaii's big market, but the number of visitors arriving from the East Coast is growing. For the first quarter of 2000 the number of visitors to Hawaii from the East Coast grew 5.7% to 624,820, compared to the first quarter of last year when 590,953 East Coast visitors made the trip.

Oahu continues to carry the state's increase in the number of visitors from the mainland. The number of visitors coming from the continental U.S. to Oahu jumped 8.5% during the first quarter of the year, compared to last year.

Other islands saw decreases in the number of visitors during the first quarter when compared to last year. The number of visitors from the mainland going to Kauai fell 4.7%; Maui 1.9%; Molokai 7.5%; Lanai 8.9%, and the Big Island 2.2%.

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