Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

InsightHawaii’s record-breaking momentum of 2012 surged into the new year, spurring more visitor arrivals and expenditures growth in January.

More than 680,000 visitors traveled to the Aloha State during the month, an increase of nearly 6% year over year, according to preliminary estimates released recently by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA).

“Within the first month of the year, Hawaii’s tourism industry has already contributed $1.43 billion into the state's economy, $77 million more than the same period last year,” Mike McCartney, the HTA president and CEO, said in a statement. “Each guest spent an average of $2,103 during their stay.”

Each of the state’s four major islands enjoyed increased tourism spending and arrivals in January, but Kauai produced the largest percentage-based gains, enjoying a 10% boost in visitors and a 14.3% surge in expenditures.

“I think Hawaii is, right now, reaping some of the fruit it’s been planting for a number of years with its really solid branding and really solid and unique island-by-island marketing,” Mike Going, the president of Funjet Vacations, told Travel Weekly. “I give credit to the destination for marketing itself well through the tough times, which I think has created the environment we’re all doing well in now.” ShaneNelson

Going said Funjet, a Mark Travel company, enjoyed impressive bookings to Hawaii in 2012, and the wholesaler’s business to the destination is up single digits year over year thus far in 2013.

Looking ahead, Going noted that the destination’s continuing tourism upswing is creating some capacity challenges, particularly on Oahu, and substantially expanding booking windows.

“Realistically there’s only x amount of inventory,” he said. “And inventory is an issue for us all, [and] travel agents are going to need to sell a bit further out to get the right kind of destination, the right kind of product and the right kind of experiences for their clients.”

Susan Kownacki, the director of marketing for Blue Sky Tours, another Mark Travel subsidiary, said agents need to be planning clients’ Hawaii vacations at least five months out.

“We are still seeing some closer-in bookings, but those are getting harder and fewer between,” she said. “There just isn’t the space for it.”

Selling only Hawaii vacations exclusively through travel agents, Blue Sky Tours is no stranger to Neighbor Island marketing campaigns. It recently launched promotions for Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii, but Kownacki said the increase in nonstop flights from the U.S. mainland to Maui, Kauai and the Big Island have helped the company increase business year over year despite the capacity challenges on Oahu.

“Kauai and the Big Island are certainly reaping the benefits of the direct flights because it’s just easier to get there,” she said.

Second only to Kauai in terms of percentage-based growth, the Big Island saw tourism spending jump $13.6% in January while arrivals increased 7.2%, according to the HTA’s statistics.
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