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Visitor Spending in Hawaii Jumped 20% to $1 billion in September

By Alan Yonan Jr., The Honolulu Star-AdvertiserMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Oct. 26, 2011--If September's robust visitor numbers are any indication, the traditional "shoulder season" lull in Hawaii's tourism industry will be less pronounced than in previous years.

An increase in visitors from all of Hawaii's major markets -- including the first rise from Japan in six months -- boosted both overall arrivals and spending in September from the same month a year earlier, the Hawaii Tourism Authority reported Tuesday.

The number of visitors rose by 4 percent to 560,707, while the amount they spent increased by 19.7 percent, or $165 million, to $1 billion, according to the HTA.

"We were expecting things to slow down, but it hasn't really happened," said James Donnelly, manager of the Hans Hedemann Surf School.

The surf school, with locations in Waikiki and at the Turtle Bay Resort, has seen a steady flow of customers from Australia, Europe, the mainland and Canada, Donnelly said. The school normally reduces its number of instructors to about two during the fall months, but has been using about four or five this year, he said.

"It's been kind of a weird year. It's been pretty much busy all year," he said.

The September increase in visitor spending was the largest year-over-year jump in five months. The rise in arrivals was the first increase after three consecutive declines.

Through the first nine months of the year, arrivals totaled 5.45 million, a 2.7 percent increase from 5.31 million visitors during the same period a year ago. Spending rose to $9.26 billion, a $1.19 billion increase over the first nine months of 2010.

Although the number of visitors from Japan grew by just 0.8 percent in September, their spending increased by 14.9 percent, thanks to a stronger yen, the HTA said. Daily spending averaged $305 per person in September compared with $273 a year earlier.

The dollar, which has been falling fairly steadily against its strengthening Japanese counterpart since last spring, hit a record low of 75.71 yen in New York trading Tuesday.

Mike McCartney, HTA president and chief executive officer, said he was hopeful the increase in arrivals from Japan was a sign that business from that market would continue to solidify after the disruption caused by a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March.

"We anticipate this momentum to continue through the fourth quarter of 2011 and into 2012, with increases in airlift out of Japan, Canada, Korea and Australia through new and established airlines," McCartney said.

"We are very encouraged with the increases in visitor spending, arrivals and air seats as we head towards the end of the year."

McCartney said the state is on track to meet the HTA's projections of 7.5 million visitor arrivals and spending of $12.6 billion for 2011. In 2010, Hawaii hosted 7.1 million visitors who spent $11.2 billion.

Helping support the industry in November will be the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, which will be held at various locations on Oahu the week of Nov. 7-13.

President Barack Obama will be joined in Honolulu by up to 20 other heads of state from Pacific Rim nations to address issues of economic growth, trade and investment. About 20,000 visitors are expected in Honolulu for APEC, including finance ministers, diplomats, policymakers, CEOs, journalists and family members. Honolulu is APEC's first U.S. host site since 1993.


The monthly visitor expenditures of visitors to Hawaii and the percentage change from the year-ago period.


Month Spent Change September $1.00B +19.7% August $1.08B +2.3% July $1.13B +5.2% June $1.04B +13.1% May $912.3M +5.9% April $920.7M +20.2% March $980.7M +11.8% February $1.01B +18.7% January $1.18B +19.8% YTD total $9.26B +14.7%


Month Spent Change December $1.11B +17.9% November $976.0M +30.4% October $961.5M +24.7% September $880.2M +22.2% August $1.08B +30.0% July $1.11B +23.3% June $948.9M +16.1% May $861.4M +15.9% April $765.8M -0.7% March $877.3M +12.0% February $853.5M +0.8% January $985.8M +4.1% YTD total $11.4B +16.2%


(c)2011 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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