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Friday, September 29, 2000

Tourist arrivals
show slight gain

But despite just a 0.9%
increase in August, visitors
are still on a record
pace for the year

By Russ Lynch

Visitor arrivals last month were up only slightly compared with August 1999, as travel from Japan slipped and mainland traffic was flat, the state said today.

Art However, the tourist industry's performance so far this year puts it on pace to break all major annual records, according to the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, which issued the monthly figures.

A total of 635,526 people came to the islands in August, a 0.9 percent increase from 629,858 in August 1999. Visitors from U.S. mainland totaled 399,825 last month, up only 0.1 percent from 399,434 in the year-earlier month, DBEDT said.

A total of 235,701 people arrived on international flights last month, up 2.3 percent from 230,424 in August 1999. But Japanese visitors totaled 181,871, down 0.1 percent from 181,970 a year earlier.

There were also some changes in the travel patterns of the Japanese, with more of them going to Maui, Kauai or the Big Island than was previously the case. Japanese travel to Maui was up 23.9 percent, for a total of 29,288 compared with 23,635 in August 1999.

Kauai had 11,969 Japanese visitors, a 45.6 percent increase from 8,221 in August last year. The Big Island attracted 26,830 Japanese travelers last month, a 33.2 percent increase from 20,146 in the year-earlier month.

Neighbor island hotels have been promoting themselves heavily in Japan recently.

On average, however, the Japanese cut their stay shorter, a drop of 4.3 percent to 5.82 days from 6.07 days a year earlier.

U.S. visitors stayed longer, however, an average of 10 days last month from 9.74 days in August 1999, and that brought the overall average length of stay among all visitors to Hawaii to 8.66 days, a 0.9 percent rise from 8.59 days a year earlier.

Length of stay and the number of tourists worked together to create a 1.8 percent increase in the average daily census, the number of visitors in the islands at any time. Last month that figure rose to 177,640, from 174,460 on an average day in the year-earlier month. The small lift in the number of August arrivals, coupled with a similarly small rise in the average length of stay, was enough to make it the seventh month in a row in which visitor days were ahead of the year-earlier levels.

"Year-to-date performance continues to be exemplary in both visitor days and arrivals, which are up over 4 percent," said Seiji Naya, DBEDT director.

The visitor-days figure -- the number of arrivals multiplied the number of average length of stay -- is considered an important economic indicator because it measures the opportunity visitors have to spend money in the islands.

For August, the visitor days tally was 5.5 million vs. 5.4 million a year earlier, a 1.8 percent increase.

The year-to-date total visitor count was up 4.2 percent at 4.77 million, from 4.58 million in the first eight months of 1999.

The state said annual records should fall this year in all the major categories that the industry watches closely, including visitor count, visitor days, average daily census, and length of stay.

For August, individual islands showed mixed results compared with a year earlier.

Despite the larger Japanese presence, Maui showed a 4.4 percent decline in total August visitor arrivals, to 202,658 from 211,974 a year ago. The Japanese helped the Big Island chalk up a 3.3 percent increase, to 113,230 visitors from 109,662.

Oahu had a 1.7 percent increase in total visitors, to 434,690 last month from a year-earlier 427,390. Kauai had a 2 percent decrease to a total of 98,209 vs. 100,203 in August 1999.

Molokai had a 12.9 percent decline to 4,755 arrivals from 5,460 a year earlier and Lanai had a 0.7 percent increase to 6,382 visitors from 6,340. DBEDT cautioned that its Molokai and Lanai samples are small, which can distort the results.

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