Monday, August 30, 1999

State’s visitor
count up 4.2% from
last July

Dropping eastbound arrivals
are offset by a rise in
westbound travel

By Russ Lynch


Despite another substantial drop in tourist arrivals from Japan, Hawaii's overall visitor count for July was up 4.2 percent, state officials said today.

The overall visitor tally for last month -- 650,130 vs. 623,780 in July 1998 -- reflected the same scenario that Hawaii's No. 1 industry has seen throughout the year: rising arrivals from the mainland making up for the drop in higher-spending Japanese tourists.

The head count from Japan was down 8.4 percent for a July total of 168,240 compared with 183,750 a year earlier, according to a monthly report from the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism. That figure showed Japan performing worse than the overall Asia-Pacific market, which produced an eastbound arrivals figure of 225,670, down 4.7 percent, vs. 236,690 in July 1998.

Art Still, the eastbound decline was more than made up for by a 37,000-plus increase in westbound arrivals. Most of that increase in numbers came from Western states, but strong increases were also reported in travel from the East Coast.

Total westbound arrivals rose 9.7 percent, to 424,460 last month from 387,090 in July 1998, with California arrivals, traditionally Hawaii's biggest U.S. market, up 4.8 percent.

"The performance of the visitor industry is consistent with other Hawaii economic indicators," said Seiji Naya, DBEDT director, citing recent positive economic news such as the 1.5 percent rise in general excise tax collections in the first half of the year and a 3 percent rise in personal income in the first quarter.

The state and the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau have long stressed that the tourist head count is not as important as what the visitors do when they are here, particularly how long they stay, an indicator of how much they spend.

By that indicator, July was a good month. The average tourist stayed 8.65 days, a 0.9 percent increase from 8.57 days in July 1998. The result was a visitor-days total (the number of tourists multiplied by the length of stay) of 5.6 million last month, up 5.2 percent from 5.3 million in July 1998.

The length of stay by westbound tourists was up 0.9 percent at 10.27 days, from 10.18. However, the average stay by eastbound travelers was down 5.7 percent at 5.6 days, from 5.94 in July 1998.

Longer stays and a bigger visitor-days number add up to more opportunity to spend money, economists say. However, spending habits change, and there has been no recent detailed study of visitor expenditures.

Visitor arrivals through the first seven months of this year totaled 4,018,170, up 1.1 percent from 3,974,010 in the same period last year. Seventh-months westbound arrivals were up 5.9 percent at 2,653,430, from 2,504,700 last year. Year-to-date eastbound arrivals were down 7.1 percent at 1,364,740, from 1,469,310 last year.

In other words, a year-to-date drop of about 105,000 in eastbound arrivals was countered by a 149,000 rise in westbound travel.

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