Visitor arrivals and spending grew for the 13th straight month in June, setting new monthly and midyear records and keeping tourism on track for a blistering full-year finish.
Arrivals in June rose 4.5 per cent to 835,918, and total spending increased 3.7 per cent to $1.4 billion, according to preliminary statistics released Thursday by the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
June arrivals rose from the US West, US East, Japan and Canada but declined from the cruise ship market and the market called all others, which includes all foreign markets outside of Japan and Canada. June visitor spending grew from the US East, Japan and Canada.
During the first six months of the year, visitor arrivals grew 4.3 per cent to 4.6 million visitors, and spending rose 8.7 per cent to $8.4 billion. Year-to-date, arrivals grew from every market except the all others category. Midyear spending rose in all markets except cruise ships and the all others category.
“Our state’s economy benefited from the consistently strong travel demand that Hawaii realized in the first half of the year, especially from the mainland US, Japan and Canada,” said HTA President and CEO George D. Szigeti.
“The numbers are hugely strong, abnormally strong,” said Jack Richards, President and CEO of Pleasant Holidays LLC, Hawaii’s largest wholesale travel seller. “We are exceeding 2017 expectations, and going into 2018 our bookings look very solid, we’re tracking double digits. These are the best year-over-year numbers in the last three years.”
The monthly and midyear spending and arrivals numbers have exceeded the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism’s first-quarter forecast, which estimated full-year visitor arrivals would rise 1.5 per cent to 9.1 million and spending would increase 2.9 per cent to $16.2 billion.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority will meet with DBEDT August 8 to revise the forecast, said Jennifer Chun, HTA Tourism Research Manager. An expected increase in air seats to Hawaii could offset political and economic uncertainty, Ms Chun said.
If 2017 levels exceed those of 2016, it would mark the sixth year in a row of visitor and spending growth for the state.
The increase in visitor spending statewide through the first six months “strengthened Hawaii’s economy as a whole and also generated $976 million in state tax revenue, an increase of $78.3 million,” said Mr Szigeti.
Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Hawaii island realized growth in visitor spending in June and through midyear.
Elizabeth Churchill, owner of hospitality consultancy Churchill Group LLC, said new hotel and vacation rental inventory has provided the extra capacity that Hawaii tourism needed to grow through midyear. She expects added airline inventory to fuel future growth but warns that accommodations will have to keep up, and that might warrant discussions on what kind of tourism growth is sustainable and desirable.
“What’s the tipping point for the local community and the visitor industry?” said Ms Churchill. “I’m pro tourism, but it’s important to have an exceptional place that the local community and the visitor industry can enjoy. We need to gather stakeholders to look at tourism sustainability.”
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