Tourism continuing to grow

LIHUE  — The numbers say what’s obvious: People like visiting Hawaii.

But the latest report issued by the Hawaii Tourism Authority shows that more people are traveling to Hawaii this year compared to last.

So far, visitor arrivals and spending through August have surpassed last year’s total through the same month.

Year-to-date tourism has contributed $1.04 billion in state tax revenue, $50 million more than same period last year, the state authority said Thursday.

Kauai’s increased visits play a part in the overall increase, too.

The island has experienced a 4.7 percent bump in visitor arrivals this year, hosting 771,067 travelers and  vacationers.

A 6.6 percent increase in direct air seats to Kauai from U.S. West and Canada, up 2.4 percent, assisted with the momentum throughout the first eight months of 2013.

The end of August generally marks a slow down in traveling activity as Hawaii braces for the fall shoulder season, the report said, so visitor numbers should dip, which they often do this time of year.

“We anticipate seeing a slowing in arrivals and expenditures as we enter the fall shoulder season,” it said. “We will continue to monitor the fluctuating fuel costs, strengthening of the dollar against international currencies and other economic conditions, which have been impacting visitor length of stay.

Tourism is the state’s lead economic driver and resource, which supports 170,000 jobs statewide, one Hawaii job for every 47 visitors.

Increased visitations isn’t breaking news to Kauai.

Last week, economist Jack Suyderhoud said during the 39th annual First Hawaiian Bank Economic Outlook and Forum that tourism will continue to grow on the island.

Plans to rebuild the Coco Palms Hui property with 350 rooms, the expansion of visitor retail shopping spaces, such as in Princeville, and an increased number of cruise ship day arrivals all will contribute to increased visitor arrivals.

They’ve been growing since 2009 and are on target for over 1.1 million in 2013, short of the 1.3 million peak in 2007.

“Tourism will continue to grow,” he said at the event.

Randy Francisco, Kauai Chamber president and CEO, called the numbers positive, but added it will be intriguing to see if the upward tick continues during the shoulder season – the typically slower time for businesses before tourism picks up again around the holidays.

“I think the data is positive news in the standpoint if we look at the overall percentages over the last few months, it’s up,” he said. “We want to keep that momentum going.”

“But as we have heard, there are those adjustments that we are going to be experiencing,” he added.

Chip Bahouth, Sheraton Kauai Resort general manager, said the increased revenues are also because of increased prices, and that overall island occupancy is close to what it was last year.

Overall, the island still isn’t hitting its pre-recession 2007 marks.

That said, he added, the numbers look good so far.

“We’re having a better year than we did last year.” he said “In general, our competitors are feeling that same upswing the rest of the state is feeling.”

A trend, he’s optimistic will continue.

“I think 2014 is going to be good year,” he said. “We’re going to have a better year next year.”

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