March visitor count gains
Visitor arrivals jumped 4.2 percent over 2006; spending rose as well
Although Hawaii's international travel market is still down, an early spring break helped the state's domestic market rebound in March, resulting in healthy increases in overall arrivals and spending.
The state welcomed 659,478 arrivals in March, a 4.2 percent increase from the year-ago month, according to preliminary statistics released today by the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) Expenditures climbed 4.1 percent.
After several months of declines, the jump in arrivals was cause for celebration. However, gains were limited to the U.S. West region, and affected by the timing of holidays.
For the first three months of 2007, total visitor arrivals continued to lag 2006, down 1.1 percent to 1.78 million. Total visitor expenditures grew 2.2 percent from the same period last year to $3 billion.
Still, fewer new visitors came to Hawaii for the first three months. Repeat visitors comprised 65.5 percent of the total visitors to Hawaii, versus 64.4 percent in year-to-date 2006.
The 267,418 U.S. West visitors to Hawaii in March represented a 14.1 percent increase from March 2006, when arrivals were reduced by the mid-April timing of the Easter holiday and spring break. Arrivals from the U.S. East market remained flat, while all other markets continued to trail 2006 levels. Arrivals from Japan fell 4 percent and arrivals from Canada fell 1 percent.
"An earlier Easter and spring break this year contributed to the strong growth in U.S. arrivals. Specifically, there was a phenomenal increase in U.S. West visitors for March 2007, with double digit growth across all islands," said State Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert. "Growth from the U.S. West market has been so strong that their total expenditures were the highest among the top four visitor markets."
U.S. West expenditures rose 12.4 percent in March, while spending by visitors from the U.S. East rose by 3 percent. Spending from Hawaii's top international markets, Japan and Canada, fell a respective 4 and 16.8 percent.
High fuel surcharges, a continued lack of flights and competition from other destin- ations has continued to impact the Japan market, said Takashi Ichikura, executive director of Hawaii Tourism Japan.
"Unfortunately their eyes are temporarily turned from Hawaii," Ichikura said.
High prices have also caused Japanese travelers to favor shorter booking windows, which puts them at a disadvantage for obtaining flights and accommodations, Wienert said.