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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 22, 2006

Tourism strong, but not at '05 level

By Sean Hao
Advertiser Staff Writer

The number of visitors to Hawai'i rose 1.6 percent in November, while year-to-date arrivals remain slightly below 2005's record pace.

Visitors spent more during their trips here last month and through the first 11 months of this year, according to figures released yesterday by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

While still strong, the numbers provide further proof that Hawai'i's biggest industry is peaking after several years of rapid growth.

Hawai'i took in 571,552 visitors last month, which was up 1.6 percent compared with November of last year. Hawai'i hosted 6.75 million visitors during the first 11 months of 2006, which was down 0.1 percent from last year. On O'ahu, which draws the majority of tourists, visitor arrivals rose in November, but remain down nearly 3 percent so far this year.

For businesses that rely on the tourism trade, that drop in activity is noticeable.

"Definitely, business is good, just not as good as our boom year (2005)," said Bob Hampton, president of Waikiki Beach Activities Ltd., which has run a concession that serves guests of the Hilton Hawaiian Village for 17 years. "For us it appears that it is softer there are less people."

Still, "we do have a good crop of visitors and they do seem to be very happy."

Mainland arrivals grew 2.4 percent to an 11-month record of 4,967,222 visitors statewide. But that was offset by a 6.4 percent decline in international arrivals. Japanese visitor arrivals, which have fallen all year, were down 8.9 percent year to date.

Statewide visitor spending rose 3.5 percent to nearly $1.1 billion in November. Visitor spending increased 3.3 percent to $10.9 billion in the first 11 months of 2006, compared with the same period last year. Spending increases came from the U.S. West, U.S. East and Canadian visitor markets, while total visitor spending by Japanese visitors fell 5 percent.

In an encouraging sign, first-time visitors to Hawai'i rose to 36.1 percent in November, compared with 34.8 percent in November 2005, said State Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert.

"It's very encouraging to see the increase in first-time visitors to Hawai'i, since historically these visitors tend to spend more on a daily basis," she said in a statement. "The increase in first-time visitors may account for the phenomenal growth in group tour visitors, as well as the first positive growth in visitors to O'ahu since April of 2006."

Total visitor days, which is considered a good gauge of the tourism industry's economic contribution, increased 1.5 percent in November to about 5 million, but remained down 0.2 percent on the year.

Total cruise visitors rose 30.1 percent to 365,790 visitors, including those who arrived by air to board cruise ships and those who came on the ships. These visitors were aboard 52 cruise ships, including three U.S.-flagged ships homeported in Hawai'i: the Pride of Aloha, the Pride of Hawaii and the Pride of America.

Reach Sean Hao at shao@honoluluadvertiser.com.