2012 Hawaii tourism economy off to strong start

Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) — January was a good month for Hawaii's tourism economy.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority released monthly visitor statistics Friday that show spending in January reached $1.345 billion, up 13.9 percent over January 2011. Authority President and CEO Mike McCartney called it "the highest January on record for expenditures," which surpassed the December 2011 high of $1.298 billion.

A higher daily spending of $192 per person and a 7.7 growth in total arrivals to 643,616 visitors contributed to January's strong increase. On a typical day in January, there were 223,452 visitors. The last time the figure was higher was in July 2005.

January is a good indicator for the year to come, McCartney said. "A strong holiday season, combined with pent up demand for travel to the Hawaiian Islands, increases in airlift and a large delegation of convention attendees were all contributing factors to the increases seen in January," he said. Those who visited Hawaii for conventions, meetings and incentives increased 25 percent from January 2011. The American Farm Bureau Federation convention brought nearly 6,000 attendees to the islands.

Spending gains were seen across the islands, except Lanai, compared to January 2011. Among the four larger islands, Kauai led the way for January visitor arrivals, thanks to increased direct service and a charter flight from China. Kauai's visitor arrivals were up 10 percent over 2011.

Spending by Canadian visitors continue to increase since January 2011, with last month's expenditures increasing 22.4 percent to $165.2 million. Total expenditures by U.S. mainland visitors increased despite lower daily spending.

Meanwhile, the Japanese market continues to rebound since last year's Japan earthquake and tsunami, with additional charter air service and an 18 percent jump in daily spending to $340 per person. Japanese spending saw a 22.9 percent jump to $218.5 million last month — the eighth consecutive month of increases since June.

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