Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

The Hawaiian Islands welcomed more than 692,000 visitors this October, an increase of nearly 5% over the same month last year and an all-time high for the month, but the new peak arrivals figure wasn’t enough to improve year-over-year spending for the destination.

Total visitor expenditures across the Aloha State slipped 2.2% in October, to just over $1.2 billion, according to preliminary estimates released Nov. 30 by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA).

“Despite the gains in visitor arrivals, spending continues to plateau as visitors are adjusting how long they stay and how much they spend while in the Hawaiian Islands,” George Szigeti, the HTA’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

A decline in international expenditures was largely to blame for the year-over-year visitor revenue decline in October. Spending by Japanese visitors, Hawaii’s largest foreign market, sunk nearly 9% in October, to $195.2 million, while expenditures by Canadian visitors plunged more than 21%, to $58 million.

Domestic tourism revenue was up, however, as spending from Hawaii’s largest source market, U.S. states west of the Rockies, climbed 1.1% year over year, to $406.3 million. U.S. West arrivals also improved, increasing by 4.5%, to more than 272,000.

Meanwhile, travelers visiting the islands from the U.S. East spent more this October than last, laying out $268.1 million during their Hawaii vacations, an improvement of 1.8% over the same 31-day period in 2014. U.S. East arrivals also were up 5.3%.

The HTA’s estimates showing moderate domestic arrivals and spending improvement across Hawaii in October appear to be in line with Los Angeles-based wholesaler Pleasant Holidays’ autumn business to the Aloha State.

“Demand for Hawaii has been strong for travel in fall 2015 with a large increase in last-minute bookings, particularly for the holiday travel season,” said Duke Ah Moo, Pleasant’s vice president of product development, partner relations and e-commerce.

According to David Hu, president of Classic Vacations, demand for Hawaii has been somewhat erratic, however, throughout 2015 overall, with “pockets of strength and then periods of weakness.”

“There will be periods where we see good passenger growth but lower transaction spend and then vice versa,” he added.

“Having said that, [as] the effect of lower oil prices are finally moderating air prices to an attractive level, we have seen some strength in the last couple of months,” Hu said of Classic’s Hawaii business. “In particular with the entry of a lower-cost carrier such as Virgin America, the overall air market has become more competitive.”

Both Hu and Moo are expecting year-over-year growth to the Aloha State early in 2016.  

“Bookings for 2016 are significantly ahead of pace for every month of the year as travelers look to secure their flights and hotel accommodations well in advance, especially for peak travel periods over spring break and summer,” Moo said.

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