Well, the totals are in and last year 6.5 million visitors arrived into via air and cruises to Hawaii which was actually off 4.5% over 2008. When you break it down to dollars the Hawaii Tourism Authority said the total spending by air visitors was $9.9 billion last year which was a drop of 11.7% as compared with 2008. The total visitor days for folks arriving to the islands decreased 4.3% from last year but interestingly the length of stay 9.4 days is the pretty much the same as it was in 2008.
From the perspective of our agency (HAWAII-ALOHA.COM) we didn’t see as much of a decline in business as other companies selling Hawaii in 2009. We did well in the markets we always do well in which includes California and especially Texas. Some of our agents here had the best years ever, but there was no question that the global recession and things like the H1N1 epidemic took its toll and wreaked havoc among the airlines and the hotels. This was good news for our customers in many ways because they were able to get more bang for their buck. Many of the four and five star properties were playing in the price point sandbox of the more budget hotels.
I think we’re seeing a turnaround in the conditions we saw for pretty much the duration of 2009. In December we saw a big spike in traffic to our website and as a result more bookings. At this point we’re booking almost at 2008 levels. With more airlift promised and prices holding out, I think we are certainly turning the corner and coming out of the tourism slump Hawaii has been in the last 12 months. The numbers were seeing from HTA seems to qualify this because total visitor arrivals rose 24% in December as compared to the same period in 2008. Additionally, visitor spending increased .5% and total visitor expenditures were 955.2 million with an average daily spending of 163 per person which is just off four dollars from the same month one year earlier.
Even with all of this “stabilization” we still see the hotels and airlines being very aggressive in their campaigning for new customers. We continue to see new specials almost every day and I think the last year has forced suppliers to be more creative in their approach which I think still bodes well for the consumer. If you’re thinking of booking your Hawaii vacation now’s the time to do it in my opinion because we don’t know how long these great prices will continue to hold out as the market is obviously recovering.