Hawaii sets visitor record

LIHUE — Hawaii’s tourism industry established new records in total visitor spending and visitor arrivals in 2016, according to preliminary year-end statistics released Monday by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. This marked the fifth straight year of record growth in both categories.

Total spending by visitors to the Hawaiian Islands increased 4.2 percent in 2016 to a new high of $15.6 billion.

A total of 8.9 million visitors came to Hawaii in 2016, representing a 3 percent increase compared to 2015. On average, there were 219,625 visitors in the Hawaiian Islands on any given day in 2016, an increase of 2 percent versus 2015.

Kauai saw 1.19 million visitors in 2016, up slightly from 1.17 million in 2015. Those visitors spent $1.6 billion, an increase of 6.3 percent from 2015. Visitors stayed an average of 7.7 days and spent an average of $181.2 per day.

In December, Kauai had 108,355 visitors, up 4.6 percent from December 2015. Spending for December on Kauai, however, fell 3.2 percent to $152 million from the same month the previous year. Daily spending by visitors for December declined 5.1 percent to $175.

Daniel Nahoopii, HTA director of tourism research, says the recovering U.S. housing market boosted travel to the islands. He says stable oil prices have also helped.

Nahoopii says the introduction of new airline routes and service brought more travelers to the islands. For example, Virgin America began flying to Honolulu and Kahului from San Francisco in late 2015.

He says Hawaii has benefited from relatively stable exchange rates for the Korean won and Australian dollar and a slight strengthening of the Japanese yen.

George D. Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said the number of jobs the tourism industry is supporting statewide increased to an estimated 190,000, which is about 15,000 more jobs than the year before.

“We are committed to maintaining this positive momentum in 2017, while also assessing as to how HTA can collaborate with industry partners and community advocates to ensure that promoting tourism is balanced with the perpetuation of Hawaiian culture and protection of Hawaii’s natural resources,” he said in a press release.

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