August visitor totals unchanged from 2008; spending sinks nearly 14%

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Insight logoAccording to a report released by Hawaii's Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, the state welcomed 608,420 visitors this August, a figure "virtually unchanged" from the same month last year.

"After 17 months of declining arrivals, we are pleased to see that visitor arrivals overall have held steady for the past two months and that arrivals from our main market, the U.S. West, have shown an increase for four consecutive months," said Mike McCartney, president and CEO for Hawaii Tourism Authority, in a statement released with the report. "We believe that this is partly [due] to efforts by our marketing partner, the Hawaii Visitors and Conventions Bureau, including the recent blitzes to San Francisco and Los Angeles."

Visitor spending, nonetheless, continued to decline: Those arriving by air to Hawaii spent $836.1 million in August, off 13.9% from 2008. Average daily spending for the month was $156 per person, down $23 year over year.

"When your base business, specifically conventions, meetings and incentives, declines 37.4% compared to the previous year, it is very difficult to make up the loss with leisure travelers," said state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert. "Decreased visitor spending, a byproduct of aggressive pricing, is affecting all sectors of our industry and the overall economy."

Year-to-date total expenditures from visitors arriving by air have sunk 15.7%, or $1.2 billion, compared with the same period in 2008.

State tourism officials, however, remain cautiously optimistic about the months ahead.

"Because of the groundwork that we've been laying through our marketing programs during the past year, we are poised to take advantage of the economic recovery that some of our key international markets are experiencing, notably the Korea market, where we've seen a 21% increase in arrivals over 2008," McCartney said.

"We are also encouraged by several major conventions arriving this fall including the American Dental Association [Sept. 30 to Oct. 4] and the Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses 2009 International Convention [in November], which are expected to generate $49.8 million in direct visitor spending and approximately 255,340 room nights."

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