Visitor arrivals Drop 16.5 percent


POSTED: Thursday, January 29, 2009

The visitor numbers continue dropping this year even after a record-setting decline in 2008.




Visitor arrivals

        The number of visitors arriving in Hawaii by air in December with the percentage change from the same month last year:

VISITORS PCT.                 
Domestic. 391,490 -19.0%                 
International. 159,039-11.8%                 
Total. 550,529-17.1%                 
Grand total* 563,542 -16.5%                 

        BY ISLAND


Oahu. 344,228 -17.0%                 
Kauai. . 75,998 -32.7%                 
Lanai. . . 6,011 -37.3%                 
Maui. 168,330 -19.3%                 
Molokai. . . 4,488 -49.6%                 
Big Island. 106,526-26.3%                 

        Source: State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism


* Includes arrivals by ship




Slowdown continues

        The 2008 monthly percentage change in visitors to Hawaii and total arrivals:

MONTH % CHANGEARRIVALS                 
June -14.2%580,862                
July -14.1%614,207                
August -17.4%608,392                
September -19.5%461,052                
November -15.9%496,877                
YEAR TOTAL -10.8%6,806,622                 

        Star-Bulletin photo / october 2006


The state projects another double-digit decline in January tourism and a 1.9 percent drop in arrivals to 6.7 million for 2009.

“;The first quarter is going to be equally grim,”; said David Carey, chief executive of Outrigger Enterprises Group. “;This may be one of the softest first quarters we've had in history.”;

Hawaii visitor arrivals hit a seventh straight double-digit monthly decline in December and recorded the worst yearly drop since early in the Great Depression.

Arrivals plunged 16.5 percent in December, contributing to an annual decline of 10.8 percent - the worst percentage point drop since 1932, when the visitor count plunged 34.3 percent. The 6.8 million visitors for 2008 marked the fewest tourists to come to Hawaii since 2003, when there were 6.4 million.

The year-to-date drop is even worse than the 9.3 percent annual decrease following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“;This is the worst I've seen,”; said Keith Vieira, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.'s senior vice president and director of operations for Hawaii and French Polynesia. “;And we cannot yet see the light at the end of the tunnel.”;

The continual decrease in Hawaii's lead industry is forcing many businesses to slash their work forces and find ways to cope with declining revenue amid an ailing economy.

Just a day earlier, the state announced that its unemployment rate for December had spiked to a 10-year high of 5.5 percent.

Travelers have become more skittish about leisure trips, particularly to long-haul destinations such as Hawaii, as consumer confidence continues to erode. Moreover, a reduction in air capacity following the demise of Aloha Airlines and ATA last year has made travel to the islands even more difficult.

“;Never before did we have two major airline carriers go bankrupt. ... Never has the percentage drop of the stock market been so massive over a short period of time,”; Vieira said. “;The multitude of negatives that happened has not happened before. The economy may improve, but somebody's got to add a million air seats.”;

December's expenditures for air travelers fell a staggering 22.4 percent, or $280 million, to $967.7 million, while expenditures for the year totaled $11.3 billion, down 9.9 percent, or $1.2 billion, according to preliminary statistics released yesterday by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

December's visitor days fell 14.9 percent year over year, though the average length of stay was slightly longer at 10.35 days, compared with 10.16 days a year earlier.

Visitors from the state's No. 1 prized market - the U.S. West - plummeted 21.9 percent in December, while U.S. East arrivals fell 15.3 percent from the year-earlier period. Arrivals from Japan, Hawaii's top international market, plunged 15.5 percent, while Canadian tourists declined 11.6 percent.

“;This past December is the first time as far as I can remember that we had room availability over the holidays even with reduced rates,”; said Marsha Wienert, state tourism liaison.

The U.S. West market was down 14.7 percent for the year, followed by an 11.5 percent decrease from the U.S. East. Japan posted a 10.5 percent decline, while Canadian travel was up 3.3 percent.

Among the major islands, Kauai was the hardest hit in December with arrivals taking a 32.7 percent nose dive, followed by a 26.3 percent drop on the Big Island. Maui's visitor count fell 19.3 percent, while Oahu saw a 17 percent decrease.

Despite the loss of two Hawaii home-ported NCL America ships and fewer stops from foreign-flagged ships, December cruise ship arrivals jumped 22.7 percent, though they were down 18.2 percent year to date.