updated 3/2/2005 1:21:32 PM ET 2005-03-02T18:21:32

Hawaii tourism began the year with close to 600,000 visitors coming to the islands in January, setting a new record for the month, state officials said Monday.

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The 599,957 arrivals marked a 15.9 percent increase over January of last year, the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism said.

The department attributed the jump to a 19.1 percent increase in Japanese arrivals and a 10.7 percent boost in domestic arrivals.

Visitors arriving by plane in January spent $960.8 million, an 11.6 percent increase over the same month last year, while the number of cruise ship passengers touring the state jumped 46.6 percent, officials said. Total visitor days rose 14 percent in January, they said.

"These impressive visitor statistics are a great way to start 2005, and illustrate the tremendous resurgence of our visitor industry, which began in January 2003," state Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert said.

"Contributing to the exceptional growth in arrivals are strong increases in air seat capacity to the state," she said. "Domestic air seats rose 11.3 percent while international air seats grew 15 percent."

Visitor arrivals increased on all islands. The Big Island led the way with a 32.7 percent boost, followed by Oahu (17.6 percent), Molokai (10.9 percent), Kauai (8.6 percent), Maui (5.8 percent) and Lanai (1.3 percent).

The average length of stay of visitors arriving in January dropped 1.7 percent to 10.23 days.

Repeat visitors comprised 64.9 percent of the total visitors to Hawaii in January, up from 64.3 percent in January of last year.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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