updated 6/27/2008 6:25:18 PM ET 2008-06-27T22:25:18

Fewer tourists are traveling to Hawaii and their combined spending decreased last month as steeper airfares discouraged people from visiting the islands, according to state statistics released Thursday.

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The number of Hawaii cruise visitors plunged due to the departure of the Pride of Hawaii, and because the Pride of Aloha made just one voyage in May, her last in the islands.

Visitor expenditures dropped 2.9 percent, or $26.7 million, in May compared to the same month last year because fewer passengers flew to the islands, according to the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. Arrivals dipped 6.4 percent, or 549,017 people, last month.

Daily spending increased to $185 per person compared to $179 per person in May 2007.

There were 56.9 percent fewer tourists arriving in Hawaii by cruise ship — only 5,382 visitors for the month. Only three out-of-state cruise ships visited the islands in May compared to seven in the same month of 2007.

"May statistics are better than anticipated, especially since it is the first month to report the effects of the loss of two home-ported cruise ships and increased airfares," said state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert. "Increased marketing efforts in our base market, U.S. West, will help stimulate demand for summer travel."

Over the first five months of this year, total expenditures by visitors who arrived by air increased 3.2 percent to $4.94 billion even as total arrivals by air decreased 1.1 percent to 2,918,580.

Tourism from Japan was down 6.2 percent in May, while 13.7 percent more people are arriving from Canada.

"We continue to be pleased with the performance of the Canada and other Asia markets and anticipate further growth especially in the China market be cause Chinese are now able to visit the U.S. as leisure group travelers," Wienert said.

The first group of Chinese leisure travelers visited Hawaii this week under a new agreement between the U.S. and China.

Trips from the U.S. West and East also fell, with the steepest decline coming from 19.3 percent fewer visitors from California.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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