Official statistics released Monday by Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism confirmed what most Hawaiians already knew: The struggling economy has hit the state’s tourism business … hard.
In September, 19.5 percent fewer people visited Hawaii than in September of last year, with the total number of visitors for the month at 461,051.
In addition, 9.3 percent fewer people came in the first nine months of 2008 than in the first nine months of 2007.
Visitors from the East Coast of the United States seemed to be staying away in the largest numbers, with a 26.2 percent decline in arrivals.
Japanese and West Coast arrivals declined by nearly equal amounts, at 19.8 and 21.5 percent respectively.
Canadians were least likely to forego a visit, with only a six percent drop in numbers in September, and a 7.7 percent increase overall for the year.
Some tourism officials believe that the September figures represent the lowest point that the tourism sector will hit, and that a rebound supported by strong group business booked through the end of the year will help buoy the industry. Others take a less optimistic view and fear that it will take much longer for visitorship to return to pre-2008 levels.
The decline in visitors has had a ripple effect on the state’s economy, which is largely tourist-driven. More than 950 leisure and hospitality jobs were lost in August and September, while another 1,450 jobs were lost in the recreation, accommodation and food sectors.
By Karen Elowitt for PeterGreenberg.com.
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