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December Record Month for Visitor Spending

Posted January 30, 2012, 05:11 PM HST Updated January 31, 2012, 12:37 PM HST

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Front Street. Courtesy of HVCB.

By Sonia Isotov

For the month of December 2011, total visitor spending reached the unprecedented high of $1.298 billion for the state of Hawaii, according to preliminary statistics released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority today.

An outstanding 7.8% growth in total arrivals (to 683,293 visitors) and higher daily spending ($185 per person, up from $169 per person in December 2010) pushed total visitor spending to reach $1.298 billion, the highest one-month total on record.

The increase, up $220.6 million over December 2010 in visitor spending, marked the 20th consecutive month of year-over-year growth since May 2010.

December’s strong performance also resulted in annual visitor expenditures increasing to $12.581 billion in 2011, making it the second highest level of visitor spending in the history of tourism in the Hawaiian Islands, down 0.4% compared to the 2007 peak year when visitor spending reached $12.626 billion. Total visitor arrivals also increased 3.8% to 7,284,069 visitors over 2010.

On Maui, total December 2011 visitor expenditures rose 13% over one year ago December 2010 spending to reach $318.1 million. Year-to-date visitor expenditures rose 12.9% to $3.1 billion in 2011, from $2.8 billion in 2010.


Visitor arrivals to Maui rose 3.7% to 192,439 in December 2011, compared to December 2010, and year-to-date arrivals rose 4.1% in 2011 over 2010.

Hawaii Tourism Authority’s chief executive officer, Mike McCartney acknowledged in a written statement that improvements in airlift and access to the Hawaiian Islands were the key to the record levels of spending seen last year.

“This year we saw significant increases in airlift to our state from emerging and established markets contributing to the strong year in visitor spending and arrivals. The HTA has worked with our airline partners to establish more direct flights servicing the neighbor islands, which has helped to contribute to longer length of stay on the four major islands and in turn higher visitor spending. We anticipate the announcement of new routes in the first half of 2012, which will also help us continue with the momentum we saw last year.”

The Hawaii Tourism Authority also released these 2011 year end highlights:

  • All islands experienced increases in both total visitor expenditures and visitor arrivals in 2011 compared to last year.
    • O‘ahu (+18.7% and +2.9%)
    • Maui (+12.9% and +4.1%)
    • Moloka‘i (+5.4% and +14.8%)
    • Lāna‘i (+27.7% and +12.4%)
    • Kaua‘i (+18.9% and +6.3%)
    • Hawai‘i Island (+5.3% and +2.8%)
  • Contributing to the growth in expenditures for 2011 was a notable growth in arrivals from higher spending visitors from Other Asia (+20.1%) and Oceania (+31.7%).
  • The total number of Meetings, Conventions and Incentives (MCI) visitors rose 11.2% compared to 2010 with growth from all segments: conventions (+9.5%), corporate meetings (+17.2%) and incentives (+11.2%). However, Hawai‘i also experienced three months of double-digit declines given 2011 was an off-cycle year (MCI business in Hawai‘i has historically favored years that end in 4 and 5 or 0 and 9).

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