KAILUA-KONA — Showing signs of recovery, July brought growth to the visitor industry on Hawaii Island, but not enough to offset previous losses.
Hawaii Island recorded growth in visitor spending of 9.1% to $219.4 million, and an increase in arrivals of 13.7% to 175,031 during the month compared to July 2018, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s July report.
But even though the arrivals were up, the amount of time they stayed on island decreased 5.5% to 6.99 days.
In the first seven months of 2019, both visitor spending and visitor arrivals declined on Hawaii Island versus last year.
Year to date, visitor spending has declined by 8.8% to $1.38 billion and visitor arrivals are down 2.4% to 1,058,377 following the effects of the 2018 Kilauea Volcano eruption and storms.
Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau executive director Ross Birch said July was a great month for the Island of Hawaii in many ways.
“We were up in almost all of the categories compared to last year, and the two that I focus on most are total arrivals and total spend. YTD totals are still behind 2018 as we had a very successful first 6 months last year. Compared to 2017 we are pacing slightly ahead in both arrivals and total spending. This is a great sign, as 2017 was a consistent year and better to judge the year-to-date numbers,” Birch said via email.
“The U.S. market has done well for us even through the eruption, and we are seeing a great increase for the month of July at 14.0% over last year. The market that lagged the most through the second half of last year was the Japan market and that is 16.5% up over last July,” he said.
The specific recovery funding provided by the Hawaii Tourism Authority has kept the marketing momentum going for the island, he added.
“We focused on short turn-around programs that helped bring the visitors back at a faster pace along with large in-market direct sales promotions coming up in September to really push out the rest of the year and beyond,” Birch said.
The Visitors Bureau is focusing on marketing to the mainland as a whole and specifically the West Coast with a push on all cities with direct airlift to Kona and Hilo.
There is also a full push of Hawaii Island throughout Japan, with the greatest push on promoting Japan Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines with direct service to Kona.
Birch said as a result of an intensified marketing partnership, the island is seeing much higher incoming passengers on those direct flights.
“As far as on-island focus, the Hilo or East Side of the island as a whole is lagging behind in the recovery, so our messaging and promotions have moved to heighten the awareness of the attractions, activities and accommodations in East Hawaii,” Birch said.
The Visitors Bureau predicts a promising outlook for the remainder of the year and beyond.
“We are still increasing the direct access as well as increasing our interisland flights with Southwest announcing service from Oakland and San Jose as well as Hilo interisland. Hotel occupancies are on the rise and all indicators show we will continue the upward movement,” Birch continued.
Statewide visitors spent a total of $1.70 billion, an increase of 2.4% compared to July 2018, however average daily visitor spending was down 2.7% to $190 per person.