Visitor arrivals up, expenditures down

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Docent John Brandeberry gives a pair of German tourists an introduction to the Ring of Fire Thursday at the Pacific Tsunami Museum in downtown Hilo.

As the second half of the year begins, tourism numbers are beginning to trend noticeably upward compared to last year.

However, the improved comparison is less the result of any particular recent improvements than the dismal state of tourism in the latter half of 2018.

Visitor arrivals to Hawaii Island in May stood at 138,520, only 7,000 more than arrivals in April. However, for the first time this year, arrivals were higher than they had been in 2018, which should be unsurprising given how visitor rates plummeted in May 2018 after the Kilauea eruption began.

However, visitor expenditures were still down compared to May of last year. While visitors spent $173 million on the Big Island in May 2018, visitors in May of this year only spent $153 million. That said, the difference between the two months — 11% — is considerably smaller than the 20% difference comparing April expenditures.

So far, visitor expenditures and arrivals this year to date are still trending below last year; at this point last year, 780,000 visitors had spent $1.1 billion on the island, while so far only 719,000 people have spent $950 million. However, as the year goes on, the difference will likely improve in this year’s favor as the numbers from 2018 dwindle.

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