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No relief for tourism in sight as visits slide  Nov 25, 2008

Hawaii tourism continued its downward spiral in October, with visitor arrivals falling 13.5 percent year over year as global economic conditions worsened, according to the latest statistics released yesterday by the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

All market segments except Canada recorded declines in the month, while total air visitor expenditures dropped 12.9 percent, or $124.6 million, from a year ago, to $844.7 million. The air and cruise ship visitor count totaled 511,518.

"The kind of decreases in arrivals that we've seen in the last couple of months, people expect to continue," said Murray Towill, president of Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association. "On the industry's side, the longer it continues, the more difficult it becomes."

Even more troubling is the fact that no one has a good feel for when the industry will turn around, he said.

"It's obviously one of the challenges being dictated and greatly influenced by the economic problems that are occurring around the globe," Towill said. "It is increasingly important for Hawaii to maintain a presence in the marketplace and to be promoting the destination to try to attract as many people who are traveling."

Average daily spending declined to $189 per person from $191 a year earlier, while total visitor days for air and cruise visitors decreased 12.1 percent. The average length of stay climbed slightly to 9.06 days from 8.91 days in October 2007.

U.S. West arrivals plunged 19.8 percent, while the visitor count from the U.S. East plummeted 14.1 percent. The decline in the Japanese market was less severe at 5.6 percent, compared with double-digit declines the preceding four months. Cruise ship arrivals took a 14.1 percent nose dive in the month.

Among the major islands, Kauai took the biggest hit with a staggering 25.9 percent decrease, followed by a 20.5 percent decline on Maui and 19.7 percent on the Big Island. Oahu, which attracts the most tourists, was down 13.3 percent.

The bright spots in the month came from Canadian arrivals, which rose 7.6 percent after rebounding from a 6 percent decline the month before, and a 55 percent boost in smaller international groups, primarily from Asia, traveling to the islands for conventions or corporate meetings. In addition, Japanese honeymooners were up 4.8 percent from a year earlier.

"The increases we saw with those groups coming in from Asia and the commitments we received when we were in Korea, Japan and Taiwan from the airlines is a good sign especially as we see those continued increases coming out of those markets," said state Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert. Nonetheless, November arrivals as well as tourism in next year's first quarter is worrisome, as reservations appear to be lagging in the double digits compared with last year, she said.

"I've got my fingers crossed," Wienert said.

No relief for tourism in sight as visits slide
Waikiki Beach / Image via

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