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Visitor spending surpasses pre-pandemic levels. HTA marketing contract still undecided

HNL Baggage Claim 05 honolulu airport tourism travelers HTA
Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority
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FILE - Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu.

Visitor spending in August continues to surpass pre-pandemic levels despite an ongoing drop in arrivals.

The state reports visitors spent more than $1.7 billion last month, a nearly 14% increase compared to the same time three years ago.

An indicator of increased visitor spending is hotel revenues. The industry benchmark, revenue per available room or RevPAR, continued to see double-digit increases compared to 2019.

During the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority’s monthly board meeting on Thursday, Chief Branding Officer Kalani Kaʻanāʻanā described the success state hotels are seeing.

"I don’t know if you guys follow the STR reports. But they put out one recently where they literally had to put Maui and Hawaiʻi Island in a separate chart in the top left corner because it didn’t fit the rest of the country. And New York edged us out, but Oʻahu was like right there with it. And then literally Maui and Hawaiʻi Island had its own chart," Kaʻanāʻanā said.

U.S. arrivals continue to make up a majority of visitors coming to the islands.

However, there is still no word on which agency will take charge of the lucrative domestic marketing contract.

The Hawaiʻi Visitors and Convention Bureau is challenging the HTA’s decision to award a $34 million marketing and management contract to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement. The protest has stalled the council’s timeframe to begin work and triggered a three-month extension of the HVCB’s current contract — which expired this week.

Previously, the HVCB had been the only entity ever contracted by the HTA to market Hawaiʻi as a destination to the continental U.S. and Canada.

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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