Dude, Where’s The Tourism Industry?

Hawaii sees largest decline in visitors since record-keeping began.
By The Molokai Dispatch Staff

Hawaii may still have the beautiful beaches and warm climate, but not nearly as many people are enjoying them, according to the latest numbers.

2008 marked Hawaii’s largest tourism decline ever — 10.6 percent — in tourist arrivals, with just 6.7 million visitors coming to the Islands

Preliminary numbers indicate that Molokai saw 16 percent fewer visitors in 2008 than 2007, down from just fewer than 70,000 last year compared to 83,000 in 2007.

 “The value of a Hawai‘i vacation has never been better and we need to convince mainland travelers that now is the time to visit our islands, says State Tourism Liaison, Marsha Wienert.  “The Canadian market was excellent in 2008 and we need to continue to nurture it.  Additionally growth opportunities exist in many developing markets especially Korea and China,” Wienert added.

Expenditures for 2008 by visitors who arrived by air totaled $11.3 billion, down 9.9 percent or $1.2 billion, according to preliminary statistics released by the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT).

For the month of December 2008, total air visitor expenditures dropped 22.4 percent or $280 million, from the same month last year, to $967.7 million.  The decline was caused by a 17.1 percent decrease in arrivals by air to 550,529 visitors and lower average daily visitor spending ($170 per person, down from $185 per person in December 2007).

Total visitor days for air and cruise visitors in December 2008 fell 14.9 percent from the same month last year.  Total arrivals for air and cruise visitors declined 16.5 percent from December 2007.  However the average length of stay by these visitors was slightly longer at 10.35 days, compared to 10.16 days last December.

Among the top four visitor markets, air arrivals from the U.S. West dropped 21.9 percent while U.S. East arrivals were down 15.3 percent compared to December 2007.  Japanese arrivals fell 15.5 percent while arrivals by air from Canada declined 11.6 percent from last December.

“Hawai‘i experienced an exceptional first quarter in 2008 which helped offset the challenges that the world economic crisis has had on the visitor industry and our economy,” says Wienert. “The results for the year and for December were expected, however we continue to believe that in spite of the challenges opportunities exist.  By continuing to work together we will get through this and our tourism sector will be stronger and healthier than ever.”

Total arrivals by air and cruise decreased 10.8 percent from the same period last year to 6,806,622 visitors. This will be the first year since 2004 that annual arrivals were less than seven million visitors.

2008 arrivals by air totaled 6,699,424 visitors, 10.6 percent lower compared to last year.  The average daily spending was $180, compared to $182 per person for 2007.

December 2008 Visitor Research Data can be viewed at: www.hawaii.gov/dbedt

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