Fewer passengers
cruised isles last year

Despite a drop in the number of Hawaii residents and out-of-state passengers who cruised the isles in 2003, tourism officials said they were pleased that cruise-goers spent more time and money in the state.

The number of out-of-state visitors seeing the isles by ship decreased 2.5 percent to 236,149 visitors this year as compared to 242,144 last year, according to data released yesterday by the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism. The number of Hawaii residents boarding cruise ships to tour the islands sunk 20.6 percent, dropping from 7,117 passengers in 2002 to 5,654 passengers in 2003.

The drop in Hawaii residents taking cruises probably occurred because of Norwegian Cruise Line's decision to pull one ship before the holidays, said DBEDT statistician Eugene Tian.

During the 2002 holiday season, Hawaii residents were able to book passage on the Norwegian Wind and the Norwegian Star, but in 2003 residents were only able to sail on the Star, Tian said.

"Most Hawaii residents prefer to take cruises on ships that are homeported in Hawaii," Tian said, adding that other major cruises lines also offer Hawaii cruises; including Holland America, Crystal, Princess and Celebrity. However, their sailings are more limited, and they depart from ports in Canada, Mexico or call at Fanning Island, since they're foreign-flagged.

Hawaii residents taking inter-island cruises represent only about 2.4 percent of the local cruise market, according to DBEDT.

Regardless of a decline in cruise passengers, tourism officials said they were pleased with the overall results, which indicate length of stay and visitor spending has increased for out-of-state cruise passengers.

"The cruise industry continues to remain strong for Hawaii, and we're particularly pleased that the benefits are spread throughout the state," said Marsha Wienert, Gov. Linda Lingle's tourism liaison.

As NCL makes plans to expand the number of cruise ships coming to Hawaii, tourism officials, business people and economists are watching to see what the impact will be on the state's economy. It's a potentially important market, but it's still not a huge market, according to DBEDT data.

Cruise visitors in 2003 accounted for only 3.6 percent of the state's total visitors. A total of 230,495 visitors came to Hawaii by air to board cruise ships or came on cruise ships to tour the islands in 2003. The visitors sailed aboard 47 cruise ships, which made 125 tours around the state.

Cruise ship passengers also added to the state's economy by spending money in the islands beyond their shipboard expenditures. Cruise-ship travelers from outside Hawaii spent about $101 per day, as compared to $99 per day for the same period last year.

The money went into land tours while ships were docked, restaurant meals and, for some, hotel stays before or after their cruises, DBEDT said.

The biggest share, $20.78 per person per day, went into tours on shore. Local lodging accounted for $15.15 a day for each cruise visitor. Food and beverage spending averaged $11.27.

The DBEDT figures show cruise visitors mostly spent their time aboard ship, but did make some hotel stays. Those arriving by air to greet a cruise here stayed an average of 1.61 days before joining the ship and 1.10 days at the end of the cruise.


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