Hawaii visitor spending drops 16% during first 7 months of 2009


HONOLULU, HI – Total spending by air visitors for the first seven months of 2009 decreased US$1.1 billion or 16 percent from year-to-date 2008, to US$5.8 billion. Total expenditures by air visitors in the month of July 2009 was US$893 million, down US$126.7 million or 12.4 percent from last July, according to preliminary statistics released today by the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Despite a 1.3 percent increase in arrivals by air to 621,590 visitors, total visitor expenditure for July 2009 declined due to lower average daily spending by these visitors (US$150 per person, down from US$176 per person in July 2008).

Total visitor days for air and cruise visitors in July 2009 rose 2.8 percent from the same month last year, boosted by a 1.5 percent growth in total arrivals by air and cruise ships to 624,140 visitors. The average length of stay by these visitors was 9.58 days, compared to 9.46 days in July 2008.

The 1.3 percent growth in total arrivals was the first increase since February 2008 (+3.5 percent). Among the top four visitor markets, air arrivals from US west rose for the third consecutive month, up 7.7 percent from last July. Air arrivals from US east were down slightly by 0.3 percent. Even though there was a spike in visitor arrivals surrounding the Japanese Emperor’s visit in mid-July, Japanese air arrivals ended the month down 9.2 percent. Arrivals by air from Canada were 3.5 percent lower compared to July 2008.

“Continued growth in arrivals from US west benefitted all islands in July,” said state tourism liaison, Marsha Wienert. “Increased arrivals reflect the attractive pricing being offered by Hawaii hotels, travel partners, and other visitor industry businesses, which is stimulating travel. However, the byproduct of this aggressive pricing is reduced visitor spending.”

“Per person, per day spending year-to-date, through July, has not only decreased in lodging, but food and beverage, entertainment and recreation, and shopping are also victims of decreased visitor spending. However, transportation, primarily for inter-island travel and rental-car purchases, increased in all market segments except Japan,” continued Wienert. “Moving forward, tourism’s recovery cannot be measured by arrivals, but relies on increased spending by our visitors.”

“To put things in perspective, leisure travel is down everywhere in the world right now, and Hawaii is actually doing better than a lot of our competition,” said Mike McCartney, president and CEO for the HTA. “That being said, and understanding that we are in a price-driven economy right now, we are working very hard to bring in business to Hawaii by increasing arrivals and market share. We are encouraged by the increase in arrivals from our biggest market, US west, for the third consecutive month and are optimistic that this trend will continue with aggressive marketing efforts planned for the fall. We are also putting a lot of marketing resources toward the high-spending Japan market where we are seeing an increase in independent travelers.”

“In September, eight flights are being added between Japan and Hawaii to accommodate demand for travel during silver week,” added McCartney. “West Jet also plans to increase their number of weekly flights this fall, and Air Canada will add additional flights between Hawaii and Calgary this winter.”

For the first seven months of 2009, total visitor days for air and cruise visitors decreased 7 percent. Total arrivals by air and cruise declined 8.1 percent from the same period last year to 3,837,740 visitors.

Year-to-date 2009 arrivals by air totaled 3,783,463, a decrease of 8.2 percent compared to a year ago. Average per person, per day spending declined to US$160 per person compared to US$177 in the first seven months of 2008.