Tourism numbers
fell 5% in July

A boost in domestic numbers
cannot offset a Japanese decline

By Tim Ruel

Visitor arrivals to Hawaii were off in July, but the numbers improved from earlier in the year, a new state report said.

A total of 608,284 travelers came to the state last month, a 5 percent drop from 641,233 in July 2001. For the first seven months of the year, arrivals were down more than 7 percent, to 3.7 million people from 4 million.

Arrivals from Japan were as weak as they have been all year, with a 22 percent drop in visitors. A total of 124,508 Japanese visitors came here in July, down from 159,907 last year. Japan Airlines announced yesterday it will lower its weekly number of flights from Japan to Hawaii to 68 from 75 for the winter months.

Arrivals from the western United States rose 6 percent to 260,643 from 245,592, according to the report released yesterday by the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.

Seiji Naya, department director, said domestic arrivals were boosted by the American Youth Soccer Organization national games during the second week of July, bringing 6,000 visitors.

"The positive exposure from this and other, similar events exhibits the importance that segments such as sports tourism can have on our visitor industry," Naya said.

Not all recent visitor trends are positive. The number of first-time visitors is declining, and made up 37.1 percent of the overall market in July, down from 39.1 percent of the market last year and 40.8 percent in July 2000. Repeat visitors often will not go back to attractions they have seen on a previous trip. The average Japanese visitor has been to Hawaii three times, the state report said. The average domestic visitor has been here four times.

Total business for Roberts Hawaii's "Magic of Polynesia" show at the Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel was down 25 percent in July, said spokeswoman Helene "Sam" Shenkus.

"The Japanese business was off 31 percent. Mainland business was off 16 percent," she said.

Other local attractions probably fared worse, Shenkus said, since some visitors probably would not mind seeing the show more than once.

Hotel occupancy was slightly spared in July, down 4 percent to 78 percent statewide, according to a survey released this week by industry consultant PKF-Hawaii LLP.

Budget Rent a Car had a good month in July, said spokesman Gordon Kai. The mainland market improved, and so did the Japanese market, largely because visitors are shunning tour buses for their own cars, Kai said.

"You're seeing a shift in their buying habits," Kai said. "They're more independent and more receptive."

There were other bright spots. The number of Japanese who came here for a honeymoon more than doubled to 30,548 visitors from 15,119. As a result, nearly one-quarter of all Japanese visitors in July were honeymooners.

Most major islands saw a decrease, except Maui, which had a 0.7 rise to 213,091 visitors. Oahu and Kauai arrivals were down 8.8 percent, and Big Island arrivals were off 6.8 percent.

Visitor spending slipped 2 percent to $917 million in June, the most recent month for which figures are available.

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