Visitor spending spikes


Visitors spent $2 billion more than they did last year, Hawaii Tourism Authority officials said Thursday.

HTA President Mike McCartney attributed the increase, to a total of $12.9 billion in expenditures through November, to several things.

“Events like the annual Moku O Keawe International Hula Festival and Kona Coffee Cultural Festival helped to attract visitors to the island in November, while the launch of Alaska Airlines’ new nonstop service between Anchorage and Kona contributed to growth in island arrivals,” McCartney said in a written statement.

Hawaii Island led the state with the most growth in visitor arrivals for the second month in a row, with a 17.5 percent increase in November to 113,906 visitors. Spending growth on the island increased correspondingly, growing by 17.3 percent to $1.5 billion.

Visitors arriving by air spent $193 per day across the state, $16 more per day than last year, HTA officials said. The total spent in November across the state was up 22.7 percent, with arrivals across the state up 14.5 percent.

“We are optimistic as we look to the coming year, with the greatest potential from our international markets,” an HTA statement Thursday said. “There has been tremendous growth from the Asia and Oceania regions, as a result of numerous new flights and increases in flight frequency in 2012 with more expected in 2013.”

Japanese arrivals climbed 21.6 percent, arrivals from the western U.S. rose 13.8 percent, while Canadian arrivals grew 9 percent, in November.

Cruise ship visitor numbers, 21,800, were nearly double the figures from November 2011, officials said.

The spending gains were spread across all segments of the visitor industry, HTA Vice President of Brand Management David Uchiyama said.

“Lodging is the majority of the expenditures,” he added. “It goes across the board.”

Hawaii already offers a variety of activities and experiences that appeal to broad segments of visitors, he added.

HTA has been trying to increase traffic to the neighbor islands by lobbying for more direct flights to those islands, Uchiyama said.

“It’s getting them to their vacation experience faster,” he said.

One other thing that Uchiyama credited for the increased spending is diversifying the visitors who arrive. First-time visitors, particularly those from other countries, tend to spend more. That’s especially true when the currency exchange rate favors the international visitors, he said.

HTA’s projections for next year are for continued strong arrivals and visitor spending, Uchiyama said.