Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

InsightThanks in no small part to strong expenditure figures in May, visitors arriving to Hawaii by air spent $4.3 billion across the islands during the first five months of 2010, an increase of 6.4% compared with the same period last year.

"Tourism's positive performance in May reinforces our optimism in Hawaii's improving economy," state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert said in a statement. "May, a traditionally slower tourism month, exceeded expectations and resulted in a 17.4% increase in visitor spending of $127.7 million.

"This increase in visitor spending, which was a direct result of increased visitor arrivals and daily visitor spending, is the largest gain in expenditures we have seen since before tourism began declining in 2008."

According to preliminary statistics released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority on June 25, average daily visitor spending was $176 -- up $16 from same month last year -- while arrivals by air grew for the sixth consecutive month in May, climbing 6.5% year over year to a total of 400,579 visitors.

Although arrivals from the U.S. West rose a modest 2.4%, those from the U.S. East actually dropped year over year, dipping 2.9%.

The increase in total arrivals "was spurred by a 21.6% increase in international visitors," Wienert explained. "Visitors from Japan, Hawaii's largest international market, increased 25.6% in arrivals and 31.8% in visitor expenditures. Japan was followed by Canada, which showed increases of 14.6% in arrivals and 23.2% in expenditures."

Mike McCartney, Hawaii Tourism Authority president and CEO, clarified that May's significant jumps in arrivals from Japan needed to be considered in context with the same period last year, during which the H1N1 swine flu epidemic had a significant effect on travel out of Asia.

He was also quick to mention that his organization is already seeing positive figures developing in their June statistics.

"Hawaii's peak summer travel season has gotten off to a strong start, with preliminary data showing a 13.2% increase in air passenger arrivals for the first three weeks of June," McCartney explained.

"However, we are not out of the woods yet," he cautioned. "According to research by the U.S. Travel Association, summer travel intentions among U.S. air leisure travelers have eased slightly due to the rising cost of travel compared with the discounts and deals that were more prevalent in summer 2009."

McCartney said that in spite of the U.S. Travel report, most of his organization's hotel partners are expecting occupancy rates to exceed last year's figures and believe that the state's projected 2.4 million scheduled air seats to the islands this summer will be enough to meet the anticipated increase in air passenger arrivals.

"We are also seeing positive movement in the meetings, conventions and incentive market with an upswing in visitors attending corporate meetings or on incentive trips," McCartney added. "We are optimistic about the increased booking pace for the remainder of year and anticipate seeing more corporate business out of Japan following targeted programs in this market."

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