Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

Tourism business to the Aloha State has been solid through the first half of 2015, with total visitor arrivals and spending surpassing figures posted during the record-breaking year prior, and the improvement can be credited, at least in part, to an impressive performance from the Hawaiian Islands’ largest source market: U.S. states west of the Rockies.

Through the first six months of this year, total visitor arrivals to Hawaii from the U.S. West jumped 8.7%, to more than 1.7 million travelers, who in turn spent $2.6 billion across the destination, an increase of more than 7% over the first half of 2014, according to preliminary estimates released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) July 30.  

Increased airlift has certainly played a role in the improving U.S. West numbers year over year. In its third-quarter Airline Seat Capacity Outlook, the HTA forecast a 4.7% boost in lift to Hawaii from Western U.S. gateways, noting that airlines were adding 84,000 seats from the market to the Islands through the end of September.

San Jose-based Classic Vacations has seen Hawaii business improve recently, according to company President David Hu, who added that Hawaii may see some lower costs for flights.

“Our Hawaii business has seen a nice uptick recently,” he said. “And we hope, and expect, it to continue with the forecasted lower air prices.”

Meanwhile, the HTA is also predicting significant increases in seats on flights to Hawaii from gateways in U.S. states east of the Rockies, projecting a more than 7% boost year over year through the end of September. But it’s not just domestic lift to Hawaii that is expected to improve.

“We continue to work with our partners to grow and maintain airlift, and through our collaborative efforts, project reaching a record 11.9 million total air seats to Hawaii by the end of the year,” said George Szigeti, the HTA president and CEO, in the July 30 statement.

The increased lift appears to have helped spread travelers across Hawaii, as each of the Aloha State’s major islands saw more visitors over the first half of 2015, while spending at the destinations either improved or remained essentially unchanged year over year.

“While visitor spending is slightly behind target, arrivals are pacing ahead, and we anticipate finishing the year ahead of 2014’s record-breaking numbers,” Szigeti said of Hawaii overall in 2015.

Year to date through June, the Aloha State welcomed 4.2 million total visitors, up 4% from the same period in 2014, while total visitor spending increased 3.5%, to more than $7.5 billion.     

Not all of Hawaii’s source markets have posted improvements through the first six months of 2015, however. Arrivals from Japan slipped 2.1% year over year, to more than 688,000, while arrivals from Canada were down 1.2%, to a little over 305,000 travelers.

Total spending by Japanese travelers plunged 11%, to just over $1.1 billion through June, but spending by Canadian travelers improved, climbing 3.6% year over year to nearly $670 million.  

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