Number of visitors declines
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October visitor arrivals were nothing to brag about for state tourism officials, though they were pleased by a welcome rise in Canadian visitors to the isles.
Canadian arrivals increased 10 percent, while the state's largest tourism market from the U.S. West rose slightly by 0.1 percent, according to preliminary statistics released yesterday by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
However, Japanese and U.S. East arrivals continued to fall last month, contributing to a 1.3 percent overall dip in arrivals to 562,636. Total expenditures gained only 0.7 percent.
Moreover, Hawaii's lead visitor industry is expected to worsen next year because of economic uncertainty in the U.S. market.
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Hawaii's visitor traffic continued to slip in October, causing concern for tourism officials already concerned about a difficult 2008.
Japanese visitor arrivals were down 8.3 percent, followed by a 2.3 percent drop from the U.S. East, contributing to a 1.3 percent overall dip in arrivals last month to 562,636, according to preliminary statistics released yesterday by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
However, Canadian visitor arrivals increased 10 percent while the state's largest tourism market from the U.S. West rose slightly by 0.1 percent.
"We have been very fortunate this year in the increases we've seen month-over-month in Canadian visitors coming to the islands," said Marsha Wienert, state tourism liaison. "The currency issue is a big factor in that -- their dollar is going a lot further than it once did."
The first half of the year saw a 1.2 percent increase in traffic from Canada, which is currently up 2.6 percent year-to-date. However, Canadians only make up a small part of the Hawaii market -- 18,797 visitors compared to 103,526 Japanese in October -- and their increased presence in the islands is not enough to offset the drop in arrivals from the larger markets, Wienert said.
Total international visitor arrivals year-to-date have fallen 4.8 percent, while visitor days have dropped 9.7 percent.
"As we move forward, we know we're going to have a difficult year next year, coming off of two excellent years it's very difficult to continue to see month-over-month growth," Wienert said. "Our strategy is always increasing the spending, getting those visitors here that want to see and do everything."
Visitor expenditures for the month rose $6.9 million, or 0.7 percent year-over-year to $966.8 million, while the average daily visitor spending went up $4 to $194 per person compared to the year-earlier period.
Tourism officials were particularly pleased by the increase in travelers for conventions and corporate meetings. Travelers to Hawaii for conventions last month were up 3 percent for the U.S. West, 41.8 percent for the U.S. East and 64.8 percent for Japan compared to a year earlier.
The growth in convention and corporate meeting visitors last month was attributed to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons 2007 Annual meeting, which brought 5,930 delegates and the National Indian Education Association 2007 Annual Convention with 3,000 attendees.
The corporate meetings and conventions segment is still recording a 12 percent decrease year-to-date.
"This shows us how important that particular market segment is for us and what just a couple of big groups can actually do," Wienert said, adding that state marketing contractors in recent months have stepped up efforts to attract more Asian business groups.
The cruise industry also continued to show increases in October although the number of total visitor days was basically flat. Total visitors from the cruise industry year-to-date were up nearly 25 percent, while visitor days were up 28 percent.
Still, tourism executives are bracing for hard times for the rest of this year and for 2008.
"Japan doesn't expect growth, it's a really bad group year ... there's a lot of reliance on the U.S. leisure market," said Keith Vieira, senior vice president of operations for Starwood Hotels & Resorts. "Nobody knows the effect of the weakening dollar, the rising cost of fuel, there's a lot of uncertainty on the horizon. When it's uncertain, (visitors) just wait and see. If we don't get something decent out of the U.S., it could be a real scary year."