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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, November 17, 2002

Effect of 9/11 attacks skews tourism data

By John Duchemin
Advertiser Staff Writer

State economists warn observers to use caution this fall when looking at seemingly rosy tourism statistics.

A normally reliable method to gauge tourism's strength, the analysis of change from the previous year's numbers, will not be very helpful this fall, state economist Pearl Imada-Iboshi says.

Because last fall was so slow, comparing fall 2001 numbers with this year produce what appears to be staggering growth.

In September, visitor arrivals are up an enormous 30 percent from the previous year. Preliminary daily arrivals for October continue the trend.

But this growth needs to be taken in context. The fall of 2002 may be well above last year in many key areas — but it's also far behind 2000, which was a top year for the industry.

The latter months of 2000 make a far better standard to measure tourism's success this year, says Imada-Iboshi, director of economic research for the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

"The year 2000 was our best year, and that's where we want to get back to," she said.

In September 2002, for example, 470,000 people visited Hawai'i. That's 100,000 more than came in September 2001. But it's also lower than any previous September since 1993 — and well off the 530,000 who came in the same month of 2000.

Imada-Iboshi said the numbers for hotel occupancy, revenues, air seat capacity and tourism jobs will also appear less gloomy this fall, even though all are still well below their historical highs.