Saturday, January 30, 1999

Visitor count
down 10 months
in a row

Gains from the mainland
and Canada are offset by
Asia-Pacific declines

By Russ Lynch


Hawaii's tourism industry had its 10th straight month of declining visitor counts, ending 1998 with 1.9 percent fewer arrivals than in 1997.

December continued the trend of fewer arrivals from Japan, offsetting gains from the U.S. mainland and Canada, according to figures released yesterday by the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau and the state government.

Total visitor arrivals in December were down 1.7 percent -- 570,300 visitors vs. 580,120 in December 1997. Eastbound travelers from the Asia-Pacific region plummeted 15.3 percent for the month, while westbound visitors rose 8 percent.

"The past year was truly challenging for Hawaii (businesses) . . . that focus primarily on the Asian visitor market," Tony Vericella, HVCB president and chief executive, said in a statement.

Preliminary figures for all of 1998 show Hawaii had 6,743,140 arrivals, down from 6,876,140 in 1997. Full-year eastbound arrivals totaled 2,496,530, down 10.8 percent from 2,798,190 in 1997. Westbound arrivals in 1998 totaled 4,246,610, up 4.1 percent from 4,077,950 a year earlier.

Vericella said there is a "general consensus that the Asia-Pacific market will perform better this year than it did last year" and that the industry is beefing up its tourism promotion. The HVCB is spending $10.4 million in Japan this year.

The HVCB and the state Deparment of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, which put out the report, took some consolation in the fact that those Asia-Pacific visitors who did come to the islands in December stayed half a day longer on average than their counterparts in December 1997. That helped lift total visitor days 5.5 percent above the year-earlier month.

The tourist industry considers visitor days an important economic figure because the larger the number, the more opportunity for tourists to spend money.

For all of 1998, the average length of stay for all tourists was 8.38 days, up 0.9 percent from 1997.

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