Hawaiʻi Tourism Industry Set New Records in 2017

February 1, 2018, 12:31 PM HST · Updated February 1, 12:36 PM
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Tourism. Photo by Wendy Osher.

For the sixth consecutive year, Hawaiʻi’s tourism industry in 2017 achieved new annual record totals in five key categories, visitor spending, generated tax revenue, visitor arrivals, trans-Pacific air seats serving Hawaiʻi and jobs supported statewide, according to preliminary year-end statistics released by the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority.

Visitors to the Hawaiian Islands spent $16.78 billion in 2017, an increase of 6.2% from the previous record in 2016. Spending by visitors generated a record $1.96 billion in state tax revenue in 2017, an increase of $114.76 million (+6.2%) over 2016.

Additionally, a record 204,000 jobs statewide were supported by Hawaiʻi’s tourism industry in 2017 an increase of 5.2% over 2016.

Here on Maui, visitor arrivals were up 4.1% in 2017 to more than 2.7 million visitors; visitor days rose 2.9%; and visitor spending increased 5.2% to $4.76 billion.

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Visitor spending on Maui rose substantially in December 2017 (+16.1% to $482.8 million) versus a
year ago, boosted by growth in visitor days (+6.5%) and higher average daily spending (+9.1% to
$216 per person). Arrivals increased (+8% to 258,422) with more visitors from Canada (+12.1%),
US East (+6.6%) and US West (+6.2%), but fewer visitors from Japan (-3.7%).

Hawaiʻi Tourism Industry Set New Records:

  • A total of 9,382,986 visitors came to Hawaiʻi in 2017, surpassing the 2016 record of 8,934,277 visitors by 5%.
  • Total visitor days rose 4.7% from a year ago. On average, there were 230,113 visitors in the Hawaiian Islands on any given day in 2017, up 5% versus 2016.
  • Arrivals by air rose 4.9% to 9,256,761 visitors in 2017, driven by growth from US West, US East, Japan and Canada. Arrivals by cruise ships also increased (+12.2% to 126,225 visitors) with 12 more tours from out-of-state cruise ships compared to 2016.

All four larger Hawaiian Islands realized growth in visitor spending, visitor days and arrivals in 2017:

  • The island of Hawaiʻi recorded the largest increases of all the islands in visitor spending (+14.7% to $2.40 billion), visitor days (+11.2%) and arrivals (+13.7% to 1,762,914) in 2017 compared to 2016, supported by increases in direct air service from US and Japan markets.
  • Visitor spending on Oʻahu rose 3.9% to $7.63 billion, boosted by the growth in visitor days (+3.6%) and arrivals (+4.1% to 5,672,123).
  • Visitor spending on Kauaʻi grew 9.6% to $1.83 billion, bolstered by growth in visitor days (+5.5%) and arrivals (+7.5% to 1,276,803).

A record total of 12,235,608 trans-Pacific air seats (+1.8%) serviced the Hawaiian Islands in 2017. Growth in air seats from US East (+9.2%), Japan (+8.3%) and Other Asia (+0.7%) offset fewer seats from Oceania (-6.1%). Total air seats from US West and Canada were similar to 2016.

For the month of December 2017, visitor spending rose 2.9% to $1.63 billion. Total visitor days (+4.9%) and arrivals increased (+6.3% to 880,441) but the average daily spending by each visitor was lower (-2% to $196 per person) than in December 2016.

Other Highlights

US West: Total visitor spending gained 9.7% to $6.18 billion in 2017. Arrivals increased (+4.9% to 3,843,208) with growth in visitors from both the Mountain (+6.4%) and Pacific (+4.3%) regions. Daily spending averaged $177 per person in 2017, up from $168 per person in 2016. Lodging, food and beverage, entertainment and recreation, and shopping expenses were all higher compared to last year.

In December 2017, both visitor spending (+9% to $614.3 million) and visitor arrivals (+6.8% to 360,956) increased versus December 2016.

US East: Visitor spending rose (+9.5% to $4.26 billion) in 2017 compared to last year, bolstered by a 5.6% growth in arrivals to 1,998,650 visitors. Arrivals increased from every US East region, highlighted by growth from the two largest regions, South Atlantic (+7.5%) and East North Central (+4.8%). Daily spending (+4.7% to $211 per person) was also higher compared to 2016, due to increases in lodging, food and beverage, shopping, and entertainment and recreation expenses.

In December 2017, visitor spending increased 3.1% to $433.1 million with arrivals also up 4% to 192,338 visitors.

Japan: Visitor spending rose 5.8% to $2.22 billion in 2017. Arrivals grew 5.4% to 1,568,609 visitors, supported by the launch of direct air service to Kona in December 2016 and increased air service to Honolulu. However, daily spending has been down for four consecutive months since September 2017, resulting in a slight drop for the year compared to 2016 (-1% to $238 per person). Expenses for lodging and entertainment and recreation were similar in 2017 to 2016, but shopping expenses decreased.

In December 2017, the Japan market recorded a decrease in visitor spending (-17% to $167.7 million) year-over-year. While visitor arrivals (+1% to 125,934) increased, the average daily spending was much lower (-17.7% to $220 per person).

Canada: Visitor spending (+8.1% to $1.03 billion) and visitor arrivals (+10.4% to 518,051) increased in 2017, as the market recovered from declines in both categories for much of 2016. Average daily spending dropped slightly (-0.7%) to $160 per person in 2017. Visitors spent more on entertainment and recreation, but less on lodging and food and beverage. Shopping expenses were similar to last year. Many more visitors stayed in rental homes (+23.5%) compared to 2016.

Visitor spending rose in December 2017 (+1.2% to $130.5 million) compared to December 2016. Visitor arrivals increased (+9.8% to 69,115) but daily spending declined (-9.1% to $147 per person).

George D. Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, issued the following statement commenting on Hawaiʻi’s visitor statistics results for 2017.

“What tourism generated for Hawaiʻi in 2017, highlighted by record totals in the five major categories that convey the industry’s importance to residents and the state’s economy, is rewarding and should not be taken for granted. It’s especially heartening that tourism is supporting 204,000 jobs in Hawaiʻi, knowing how the industry’s success helps families, businesses and communities statewide.

“We are grateful for the efforts of Hawaiʻi’s tourism industry partners to constantly improve their facilities and product offerings, and the outstanding service that our tourism professionals provide to visitors coming from around the world. HTA’s marketing programs drive travel demand for Hawaiʻi, but it’s the warmth and aloha of our people throughout the islands that keep them coming back.

“We are hopeful of sustaining tourism’s momentum in 2018 for the benefit of Hawaiʻi’s families and the state’s economy. HTA’s Global Marketing Team is communicating with travel industry partners in Hawaiʻi’s source markets on a continual basis to maintain travelers’ confidence in the booking of trips to the Hawaiian Islands. Our message to global travelers continues to be that Hawaiʻi is the safest, cleanest and most welcoming destination in the world.”


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