Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

Insight logoA total of 6.5 million visitors arrived in Hawaii by air and cruise ship during 2009, off 4.5% from 2008.

According to preliminary data released Jan. 26 by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, total spending by air visitors was $9.9 billion last year, a drop of 11.7% from the year before.

Total visitor days for those arriving to the islands by air and cruise decreased 4.3% from 2008, but the average length of stay -- 9.4 days -- was essentially unchanged year over year.

"2009 presented Hawaii's visitor industry with many challenges but ended with positive indicators leading us into the new year," Mike McCartney, HTA's president and CEO, said in a statement. "And, despite the unforeseen H1N1 epidemic and its resulting effect on travel, coupled with the severity of the global recession, we are encouraged that the year-end visitor data for 2009 was in line with HTA's projections."

Total visitor arrivals in December actually rose 2.4% when compared with the same period in 2008.

"We are very pleased with the increase in visitor arrivals in December, which resulted in increased visitor spending for the first month since March 2008," Marsha Wienert, the state's tourism liaison, said in a statement. "Visitor spending increased .5%, or $5 million, in December as compared to the same month the previous year."

According to the HTA report, total visitor expenditures were $955.2 million in December. Average daily spending was $163 per person, off just $4 from the same month one year earlier.

Along with increased air arrivals from the U.S. West, up 3.6%, and the U.S. East, inching ahead .7%, Hawaii also saw a 4.3% year-over-year increase from Canada, while air visitors from Japan remained essentially unchanged, slipping .6%.

"While calendar-year 2009 overall arrivals and spending were down from 2008, we are seeing positive trends going into this year, including the increase in arrivals for the past seven of eight months from the U.S. West and some increases from Japan -- areas which have been a strong focus of our marketing efforts to generate visitor arrivals in the short term," McCartney said.

Both Wienert and McCartney also expressed significant optimism regarding a substantial projected increase in available air seats scheduled for 2010.

"We will recapture most of the seat inventory lost with the closures of Aloha and ATA airlines," McCartney said. "In 2010, Hawaii will have a total of 580,000 air seats from new routes from all markets, the majority of which are from North America."

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