InsightTravelers spent $9.59 billion across the Hawaiian Islands during the first eight months of this year, up a dramatic 20%, or more than $1.6 billion, over the same period in 2011.

Total visitor arrivals to the destination have also surged substantially, jumping 10% year over year through August, to more than 5.3 million people, according to preliminary figures released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA).

The destination’s latest visitor spending and arrivals numbers were so impressive they attracted national media attention last week, including an Oct. 2 report in the Wall Street Journal speculating that if Hawaii maintains its current pace, “spending would reach $13.89 billion for the year, eclipsing the record of $12.63 billion in 2006.”

HTA President and CEO Mike McCartney was more cautious in his forecast for the rest of 2012.

“While we expect continued growth, we anticipate less significant increases in the fourth quarter compared to the significant year-over-year increases reported during the first eight months of 2012,” he said in a statement.

Greg Bernd, co-president for Classic Vacations, said a combination of highly successful promotions, longer booking windows and lower-than-expected airfares have bolstered the wholesaler’s Hawaii business.

“This was one of the best summers that we’ve had in quite some time,” he added. “We’re also having a very strong fall, and our advance numbers for 2013 are already up double digits.”

According to the HTA, visitor spending is up double digits to all four major Hawaiian Islands, signaling an improving distribution of visitor dollars throughout the state.

“Our No. 1 island is Maui, and it has been for a while,” said Kimberly Daley, senior vice president and managing director for luxury wholesaler Journese. “But we’ve seen a great deal of growth on the Big Island and Kauai this year, and I think a lot of that is due to increased airlift, [and] I think we’re really seeing a resurgence of people wanting to see a different side of Hawaii.”

Available air seats to Hawaii arriving from the U.S. Mainland were up 2.8% through August; seats to Kauai jumped 10.1% year over year, and those to Kona, on the Big Island, climbed 3.5%.

Airlift to the Big Island’s Hilo Airport more than doubled through the first eight months of 2012, thanks to nonstop flights from Los Angeles that resumed in June of last year.

For the HTA’s complete August visitor arrivals and spending report, visit

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