A 1.3 percent increase in visitors to Hawaii in July marked the first monthly increase recorded since February 2008, state tourism officials said Wednesday.
Nonetheless, visitor spending declined, because the 621,590 travelers who arrived by air spent less — $150 per person, down from $176 per person in July 2008, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
The U.S. West led the top four visitor markets, with air arrivals rising for the third consecutive month, up 7.7 percent from July of last year. Air arrivals from U.S. East were down slightly.
Despite a spike in visitor arrivals surrounding the mid-July visit of Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, Japanese air arrivals ended the month down 9.2 percent. Arrivals by air from Canada were 3.5 percent lower compared to July 2008.
"Continued growth in arrivals from U.S. West benefited all islands in July," State Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert said. "Increased arrivals reflect the attractive pricing being offered by Hawaii hotels, travel partners and other visitor industry businesses, which is stimulating travel. However, the byproduct of this aggressive pricing is reduced visitor spending.
"Per person per day spending year-to-date, through July, has not only decreased in lodging but food and beverage, entertainment and recreation, and shopping are also victims of decreased visitor spending," she said. "However, transportation, primarily for inter-island travel and rental car purchases, increased in all market segments except Japan.
"Moving forward, tourism's recovery cannot be measured by arrivals, but relies on increased spending by our visitors."
HTA President and Chief Executive Mike McCartney said he was encouraged by the increase in arrivals from Hawaii's biggest market, U.S. West, for the third consecutive month, and was optimistic that the trend will continue with aggressive marketing efforts planned for the fall.
"We are also putting a lot of marketing resources toward the high-spending Japan market where we are seeing an increase in independent travelers," he said.