|By Alan Yonan Jr., The Honolulu
Star-AdvertiserMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 27, 2011--The number of visitors traveling to Hawaii declined in June for the first time in nearly two years amid rising airfares, but visitor spending continued to rise at a near-record pace, the Hawaii Tourism Authority reported Tuesday.
The 607,264 tourists who came to the state in June represented a 2.9 percent decline from June 2010, HTAâ€ˆsaid. It was the first drop since November 2009 when arrivals fell by 1.8 percent. Visitor spending totaled $1.04 billion in June, $120 million more than the same month a year earlier.
At the current pace, spending is on track to hit $12.6 billion this year, just shy of the record $12.8 billion visitors pumped ino the Hawaii economy in 2007, said Mike McCartney, HTA president and chief executive officer. HTA also is projecting visitor arrivals to reach 7.3 million in 2011, which would be the fourth highest on record.
Business is brisk at many Hawaii enterprises that cater to tourists. Thomas Kafsack, who owns Surfing Goat Dairy on Maui with his wife, Eva Maria, said sales at the popular tourist attraction were up 41 percent in June from the same month last year.
"The last two years have been pretty good, but things really took off this year when we added goat cheese truffles to our selection. People have been buying them like crazy in our shop and on the Internet," Kafsack said.
He also said several companies that are hosting APEC-related events on Maui have booked Surfing Goat Dairy to provide food for their events this fall.
Maui was the only major island with an increase in visitors in June, with arrivals rising by 2.2 percent. June arrivals were down 6.3 percent on Hawaii island, 4.5 percent on Oahu and 0.4 percent on Kauai.
June's statewide decline in tourist arrivals followed a meager 0.6 percent increase in May, both months in which airfares from the mainland to Hawaii were up by double digits over year-earlier levels. Airfares were 27 percent higher in June and 17 percent higher in May, according to HTA. Another factor that could be suppressing arrivals is rising hotel room rates.
The average daily room rate in Hawaii rose 10 percent to $175.92 in May and is expected to increase again in June.
Arrivals from all major tourist markets declined in June, except for Canada. The biggest drop was from Japan, which is still recovering from an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant breach in March. The 84,950 visitors who traveled to Hawaii from Japan in June was about 16,000 fewer than in June 2010. Through the first six months of the year, arrivals from Japan are down 9 percent from the same period in 2010.
Cliff Tai, who owns Hawaii Beach Bums luggage and surfboard storage in Honolulu, said his business picked up when several airlines added flights to Hawaii this spring.
Tai said he still has not fully recovered from the closing of Aloha and ATA airlines in 2008 and the subsequent downturn in tourism. Hawaii Beach Bums relies on tourists for its luggage storage business, while many of its surfboard storage customers are pilots and flight attendants who want to get in a quick surfing session during a layover in Honolulu, he said.
"I'm glad to see that Alaska Airlines is adding a flight from San Diego this fall. I'd like to see more direct flights from the mainland," Tai said.
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