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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, March 27, 2001

State 4th in foreign tourist dollars

By Glenn Scott
Advertiser Staff Writer

A new survey ranks Hawai'i fourth in the nation for the amount of money spent here annually by international visitors.

The Travel Industry Association of America said Hawai'i's $6.8 billion spent by international travelers trailed only Florida ($16.7 billion), California ($12.9 billion) and New York ($8.6 billion) in 1998, the latest year for which national figures are available.

Although data may vary for more-recent years, to be available soon, the margins suggest rankings won't change much for the top five states. Hawai'i's total was more than twice that of the fifth-ranked state, Texas, which had $3.2 billion in spending. Nevada followed with $2.1 billion.

California ranked first for spending by domestic travelers, at $54.2 billion. Hawai'i was not in that top 10.

Visitor spending figures are crucial to states such as Hawai'i and Florida, which depend on tourism.

William Norman, president of the promotional association, said the spending figures "underscore the powerful economic effect travel and tourism has on each and every state in the nation."

In Hawai'i, the 1998 figures represented a decline in foreign visits from Japan and East Asia because of the 1997 Asian economic crisis. Visitor arrivals from Asia were down that year almost 11 percent from 1997, and total visitor days dropped by 8 percent.

The trend continued in 1999. By the end of 2000, visitor numbers were roughly equal to those in early 1998, according to state statistics.

Tourism officials are watching this year with concern as Japan's economy continues to stall and the yen remains weak, cutting into the buying power of Japanese visitors to the Islands.