Number of Hawaii tourists declines in January


HONOLULU – Hawaii tourism — the state’s No. 1 industry — took another hit in January, with a 12.5 percent fall in the number of people coming to the islands compared with the same month last year, state officials said.

The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism reported Wednesday that the drop resulted in a 13.6 decline in spending by visitors who came by air.

Three of the four top markets sending tourists to Hawaii posted double-digit declines — U.S. East 14.9 percent, U.S. West 14.3 percent and Japan 12.7 percent. The fourth — Canada — posted a 4.7 percent reduction.

“This is a very challenging time for everyone, because tourism is the backbone of our economy and when tourism falters it affects everyone in our state,” state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert said. “As we move forward, our marketing message about the value of a Hawaii vacation is resonating across the mainland, resulting in bookings which have helped to offset the declines.”

The January numbers followed a 10.8 percent drop in tourism in all of 2008 compared with 2007. Last year, Hawaii welcomed 6.8 million tourists, marking the first time since 2004 that fewer than 7 million tourists came to the 50th State.

Despite January’s negative figures, Wienert managed to point to a positive development.

“An unexpected bright spot in the January 2009 statistics was a 49.2 percent growth in Japanese honeymooners to the islands,” she said.

The jump helped fuel a 12.1 percent boost in the total number of visitors who honeymooned in Hawaii last month, compared with January 2008.

The 522,241 travelers who came to Hawaii last month racked up 5.6 million visitor days, a 10.4 percent decline from January of last year. The 512,139 who arrived by air spent $949.8 million in the islands, $149.7 million, or 13.6 percent, less than tourists spent in January 2008.