HONOLULU (KHON2) — State tourism officials said August was a good month for visitors from the mainland.

Visitor spending by tourists from western states in August, 2022 was more than $864 million; That is up 49.3% from $579 million in August, 2019.

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Tourists from eastern states in August, 2022 spent more than $507 million — up 33.8% from $379 million in August, 2019.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority said it is due to a focus on a specific kind of tourist.

“When we talk about focusing on the higher-spending visitor,” said HTA public affairs officer Ilihia Gionson, “which folks have talked about for many years, it’s happening!”

HTA said the numbers are not adjusted for inflation and the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization added that spending is actually slightly behind pre-pandemic levels.

“If you look at spending in inflation-adjusted terms, then total visitor spending in Hawaii is still below the pre-pandemic levels when we adjust for inflation,” said Dr. Peter Fuleky, UHERO associate professor.

International travel data from August showed demand from Japan in August, 2022 was well below what it was in August, 2019.
Over 160,000 Japanese tourists arrived in August, 2019 compared to 28,384 in August, 2022.

The announcement in late September to end most Japanese travel restrictions will help, but there are other economic hurdles.

“We should see the effects of the relaxation of restrictions in Japan, we should see that next month,” Gionson said.

“And for example, with the weak Yen, the trip to Hawaii for a Japanese resident is more expensive than it used to be and that is going to affect their spending,” Dr. Fuleky added.

The State said the first eight months of 2022 saw almost a 13% drop in arrivals compared to the first eight months of 2019, but spending was up 6.8%.

UHERO said that it is not that simple.

“Comparing current spending with pre-pandemic spending is a little misleading because everything is more expensive,” Dr. Fuleky said. Click here to read the full report from the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

HTA said they are not just inviting deep-pocketed visitors; They want travelers who care about their destination and Hawaii residents’ home.

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“And so the invitation that we’re making is to the mindful traveler who wants to come, wants to learn, wants to experience, wants to join us in our commitment to caring for Hawaii,” Gionson said.