Image: Sandy Beach Park
Justin Sullivan  /  Getty Images file
Visitor arrivals to Hawaii declined 12.7 percent in February compared to the same month in 2008 and visitor spending fell 15.9 percent, or by $161 million, to $852.5 million.
updated 4/1/2009 11:16:42 AM ET 2009-04-01T15:16:42

The slide continues for Hawaii's tourism industry with double-digit declines in the number of tourists to Hawaii and visitor spending in February stemming from the global economic crisis.

Visitor arrivals declined 12.7 percent compared to the same month in 2008 and visitor spending fell 15.9 percent, or by $161 million, to $852.5 million, according to a report Tuesday by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

An extra day in February 2008, which was a leap year, contributed to the overall monthly decline in visitors to the state but the deepening economic turmoil was the biggest factor by far.

"Hawaii's visitor industry continued to be impacted by unstable economic conditions worldwide," state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert said in a statement. "February's results were not unexpected."

The $161 million decline in spending was due to fewer tourists and a slight drop in average daily visitor spending to $175 per person, down $5 from the previous February.

Wienert said the declines in daily spending and expenditures can be partly attributed to the value packages being offered.

There's also no question that tourists are watching their spending more carefully, cutting back on shopping. Japanese were the only ones to spend more on average per day, increasing 4.1 percent to $304.80, more than double what Canadians and West Coast Americans spent.

Air arrivals were down among the top four markets, including 15.8 percent from the U.S. East and 14.9 percent from the West Coast. Japanese visitor arrivals fell by 5.5 percent and the number of Canadians was down 6.3 percent.

Oahu experienced a 12.5 percent decline in visitor arrivals to 315,654, but total expenditures slipped just 6.1 percent to $420.1 million because of higher daily spending.

Oahu fared much better than the other islands. The smaller islands of Molokai (39.1 percent) and Lanai (36.1) experienced the sharpest declines in visitor arrivals, followed by Maui (22), Kauai (19.8) and the Big Island (17.7).

The islands, in particular Kauai and the Big Island, were hurt by the loss of the Pride of Aloha. The ship was taken out of Hawaii's interisland market by Norwegian Cruise Lines in May 2008 and renamed the Norwegian Sky for service in the Bahamas.

Total expenditures on Maui plummeted 26.1 percent, while the Big Island (21.8) and Kauai (18.1) were also hit hard.

Other findings in the report include:

  • Total air seats to Hawaii declined 19.9 percent. Most of the loss were from the U.S. East (33.2 percent), followed by Canada (24.7), U.S. West (21) and Japan (11.1).
  • Total visitor days were off 13.3 percent.
  • The average length of stay was 9.44 days, down from 9.51 days in February 2008.

It's been a difficult year so far. Visitor arrivals for the first two months dropped 12.6 percent from the same period last year to 1,049,463.

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

Photos: Hawaiian paradise

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  1. Waimea Canyon, Kauai

    Kalalau Valley, on Kauai's west side, is more than 3,000 feet deep and provides stunning panoramic views. Waimea is nicknamed "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific." (John Borthwick / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Honolulu, Hawaii

    Men row their Hawaiian outrigger canoe towards Waikiki beach, with Diamond Head in the background. Outrigger canoes are now used for recreation purposes and to ride the waves, but in times past they were the main means of transportation between the Hawaiian Islands. (Mike Nelson / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. The tranquil waters of Oahu

    Hanauma Bay is one of the finest stretches of beach in the world. (Eric L Wheater / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Surfer's paradise

    Australian Luke Egan competes on Oahu's North Shore, one of the best places in Hawaii to ride the big waves. (AFP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Water colors

    A school of manini fish pass over a coral reef at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Donald Miralle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Wailua Falls

    The beautiful 83-foot tiered Wailua Falls is an easily accessible, must-see waterfall on the island of Kauai. Wailua Falls was first made famous when it was featured in the television show, "Fantasy Island." (James Randklev / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Emerald peaks

    The iconic, towering emerald peaks of the 1,200-foot Iao Needle, stand out in Maui's Iao Valley State Park. (Adina Tovy Amsel / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Historic reminder

    The USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, marks the resting place of many of the battleship's 1,177 crew members who lost their lives during the Attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 by the Japanese. The memorial is the "ground zero" of World War II. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Aloha!

    Hula dancers welcome the sailing crew of a Hokule'a, a canoe, into Kailua Bay. (Ronen Zilberman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The heart of Hawaii

    The sun sets on Honolulu, Oahu's capital and Hawaii's largest, most populous city. (Robert Y. Ono / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Polynesian heat

    Brandon OFueo Maneafaiga, 23, of Waianae, Hawaii balances two flaming knifes during the 13th Annual World Fireknife Championship at the Polynesian Cultural Centre in Laie, Hawaii. (Lucy Pemoni / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Explosive attraction

    People watch from a viewing area as an explosion takes place on Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, in Pahoa, Hawaii. Legend says the volcano goddess Pele dug fire pits as she traveled from island to island looking for a home with her brothers and sisters. She finally settled at Kilauea's summit, where she lives at Halemaumau crater. (Leigh Hilbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Forces of nature

    The Dragon's Teeth are bizarre lava formations eroded by wind and salt spray at Makalua-puna Point. (Karl Lehmann / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Heaven on Earth

    Astronomy observatories are seen on the peak of the snow-covered, Mauna Kea mountain near Hilo, Hawaii. Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano. (Tim Wright / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. On the way to Sainthood

    Tourists walk through a cemetery past the grave, left, of Father Damien at Kalawao, Hawaii. After cancer patient Audrey Toguchi prayed to Father Damien, known for helping leprosy patients in Hawaii, to help her, and her cancer went away, Pope Benedict XVI approved the case in July 2008 as Damien's second miracle, opening the way for the 19th century Belgian priest to be declared a saint. (Eric Risberg / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Cool colors

    Rainbow eucalyptus (Mindanao Gum) trees grow in Keanae, Maui. Once a year, these magnificent trees shed their bark and take on the colors of the rainbow. (James Randklev / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Magic Sands

    An aerial view of La'aloa Beach Park or Magic Sands beach in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The beach is called Magic Sands because when rough surf hits, all of the sand is emptied off the beach and temporarily moved out to sea. (Brian Powers / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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