updated 2/4/2009 5:04:17 PM ET 2009-02-04T22:04:17

The occupancy rate for Hawaii's hotels plunged by 10 percentage points in December, to a bit less than 61 percent, the lowest level since just after the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

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The disappointing figures capped a very difficult year for the tourism industry in Hawaii, which is being battered by economic decline in the United States and in Asia.

Joseph Toy, president and CEO of Hospitality Advisors, says though last year began strongly, the bottom dropped out of the market in the third and fourth quarters.

He says he's never seen such a steep decline before in nearly 25 years of analyzing hotel occupancy data.

Still, Hawaii ranked fifth among in occupancy behind New York City, San Francisco, Miami and Los Angeles.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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