Tourism slumps in June

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald From left, Darlene Ahuna, Duane Yamada and Tani Waipa perform Hawaiian music Tuesday during Hilo Hula Tuesdays put on by Destination Hilo at Mo'oheau Bandstand in downtown Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Noe Noe Kekaualua (left) teaches tourist from Washington, Utah and Japan how to make kupe'e lei Tuesday during Hilo Hula Tuesdays put on by Destination Hilo at Mo'oheau Bandstand in downtown Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald

    Noe Noe Kekaualua, left, teaches tourists from Washington, Utah and Japan how to make kupe‘e lei Tuesday during Hilo Hula Tuesdays put on by Destination Hilo at Mo‘oheau Bandstand in downtown Hilo.

Although total visitor spending to date this year on the Big Island remains higher than 2017, spending and visitors to the island declined in June.

According to preliminary data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, visitor spending on the Big Island in June totaled $194 million, coming $2 million short of what visitors spent on the island in June 2017.

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That slight shortfall came after several months of increased spending compared with 2017: April saw visitors spend nearly $20 million more on the island than in the previous year, and while the increase in May was less striking, visitors still spent $173 million, an improvement from the $168 million in May 2017.

The decline correlates with the start of the Kilauea eruption in lower Puna at the beginning of May.

May also heralded the beginning of a decline in total visitors to the island. While April saw approximately 10,000 more airline arrivals to the island than in April 2017, arrivals in May were roughly 2,000 fewer than the previous year, and in June were nearly 8,000 fewer at 149,817.

The average number of visitors to the island on any given day was 37,019, a decrease of less than 1 percent from last year.

Of the other Hawaiian Islands, only Molokai saw a decline in arrivals from the previous year, with that island down by about 200 in May and June. Every other island saw significant visitor growth, with nearly 30,000 more visitors arriving on Oahu and Maui in June.

The cruise ship market appears to have been especially impacted by the eruption. In April, cruise ship arrivals to the state increased by 11 percent from last year, but May saw arrivals plummet by 43 percent to about 8,000 visitors.

In May, Norwegian Cruise Lines canceled several Big Island port calls by the Pride of America. Hawaii Tourism Authority data indicates this cost approximately 6,600 visitors to the island in that month.

Despite the precipitous drop in cruise traffic in May, the year-to-date total of cruise arrivals to the state has only dropped by 5 percent from the previous year.

However, Big Island visitor spending this year remains higher than last year through the same period. To date, more than $1.33 billion has been spent by visitors to the Big Island this year, up nearly 10 percent from the $1.22 billion spent last year.

Furthermore, the average amount of money spent by visitors to the island per trip increased by 4.1 percent from 2017.

Total visitor expenditures statewide equaled nearly $1.6 billion in June, a 10 percent increase from the previous June, while 897,099 tourists visited the state in June 2018, a 7 percent increase from last June.

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To date, nearly 5 million tourists have visited the state, spending more than $9 billion collectively.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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