LIHUE — Visitors to the Hawaiian Islands spent a total of $4.8 billion in the first quarter, an increase of 10.1 percent compared to the first quarter of 2017, according to preliminary statistics released Thursday by the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
“The first quarter results reflect the strong pace that Hawaii’s tourism industry has been able to maintain through each of the first three months,” said George D. Szigeti, HTA president and CEO. “Hawaii continued to do well in the major categories that indicate how tourism is strengthening the state’s economy, visitor spending, generated state tax revenue, visitor arrivals, and air seat capacity.”
Visitor spending generated $563 million in tax revenue for the state, an increase of nearly $52 million.
Kauai had 125,330 visitors in March, up 22 percent over March 2017. For the first three months of this year, Kauai had welcomed 338,572 guests, a 14.3 percent increase from the same time frame last year.
Visitors are spending more, too.
In March, Kauai visitor spending totaled $177.3 million, a 15.7 percent increase over March 2017. For the first three months of this year, visitor spending was at $526.5 million, a 5.9 percent increase over the same three months last year.
All four larger Hawaiian Islands realized growth in visitor spending and arrivals in the first quarter compared to a year ago.
Total visitor arrivals in Hawaii in the first quarter grew 9.4 percent to 2.5 million compared to last year, supported by growth in arrivals via air service (plus 9.7 percent to 2.4 million), which offset fewer arrivals by cruise ships (negative 2.5 percent to 39,957).
One area that was down was honeymooners. In the first quarter, the total number of honeymoon visitors declined 5.1 percent to 109,316 versus a year ago. Honeymoon visitors in March decreased 6.1 percent to 37,708 compared to March of last year, mainly due to fewer visitors coming from Japan (down 15.6 percent to 13,476) and the U.S. West (down 11.5 percent to 6,090).
Fewer came to Hawaii to get hitched. In the first quarter, 21,007 visitors came to Hawaii to get married, a decline of 3 percent from last year. In March, the number of visitors getting married in Hawaii increased 9.5 percent in 7,980, boosted by growth in arrivals from Japan (plus 17.9 percent).
The HTA recently requested that visitors spend money in Hanalei and support businesses there as they recover from flooding.
“We are truly fortunate that there continues to be such strong travel demand for the Hawaiian Islands from around the world and that airlines are responding accordingly,” Szigeti said. “Air seat capacity to Hawaii was up 10.5 percent in the first quarter and 11.6 percent in the month of March. That rate of growth is phenomenal and is not only providing visitors with more travel options to vacation in Hawaii but also giving our residents more choices when making trips to either side of the Pacific.”