Hawaii could have more than 10 million annual visitors for 1st time

HONOLULU — Hawaii is on track to have more than 10 million visitors in one year for the first time in history, although that may not be reflected in dollar amounts, tourism officials said.

Hawaii Tourism Authority data showed there have been nearly 8.7 million visitors through October, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday.

The figure is a 5.5% increase over the 8.2 million arrivals through the same period last year, when the state’s annual count was 9.9 million visitors.

The 800,448 tourists who visited Hawaii in October was an increase of nearly 37,000 during the same month last year. The 4.8% increase is part of a decade-long growth pattern, officials said.

The growth reflects more tourists travelling to the state from the U.S. mainland and countries including Japan and Canada, officials said.

Spending by tourists was down for seven of the first nine months of 2019, followed by a small gain last month when spending rose 0.9%, or $12 million. October’s increase pushed the year-to-date spending up by $34.7 million to $1.32 billion, compared to $1.31 billion a year earlier.

Generating more tourist spending has been a difficult goal for the industry to achieve, said industry consultant Keith Vieira.

“That’s an ongoing challenge for the destination,” Vieira said. “We cannot have more and more visitors who are spending less and less.”

Besides lodging and food, visitor spending includes shopping, car rentals and interisland travel.

The tourism authority’s goal has been to attract higher-spending visitors who contribute more to the state’s economy, rather than more visitors who spend less but have greater impacts on infrastructure, natural resources and communities, officials said.