The booming visitor industry is being sparked by a relatively weak dollar, a near all-time high of 10.1 million air seats, and an HTA marketing campaign that targets areas were economies are strong. In the first 11 months of 2012, visitors spent $12.9 billion in Hawaii, an increase of 19.2 percent. The top visitor markets for the Aloha State continue to be the U.S. West and East, and Japan.
And in another encouraging sign for tourism officials, about 60 percent of visitors who came to Hawaii in 2012 were return customers, a sign that tourists continue to view the destination as unique, enticing and safe.
"That really says that we're successful in delivering the experience, because you can make all of the promises you want in the marketing materials, but when the guest arrives, you really have to deliver the aloha," explains Barry Wallace, executive vice president, hospitality services, of Outrigger Enterprises Group, which owns 32 properties in Hawaii.
Meanwhile, Hawaii’s cruise ship industry has already broken highs for overall passengers set in 2007 (130,999) and 2011 (124,456). Through the first 11 months of 2012, the number of passengers taking Hawaii cruises stood at 152,076, an increase of 45.3 percent for the same period a year earlier.
Although the high number of tourists arriving on Oahu has city and state officials concerned about the impact to services and infrastructure, McCartney believes the industry can continue to grow by deflecting some of the traffic to the neighbor islands.
"As we go into the future, what we're talking about is greater distribution to the neighbor islands," said the HTA chief. That's very, very critical to Hawaii's future strategically. "We need to work on opening Kona (Airport) as a continued port of entry for international arrivals to compliment Honolulu."