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Destination management remains crucial for 2023 tourism

Kahului Airport on Maui
Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority
Kahului Airport on Maui

Visitor spending appears to be higher than in the peak year of 2019, even as visitor counts remain lower.

This was one of the points tourism leaders discussed in a recent industry roundtable with Pacific Business News.

The islands saw 1 million fewer visitors in 2022 than in 2019, but visitors collectively spent about $200 million more.

However, given the sharp inflation over recent years, has spending truly increased?

According to the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority's figures, visitors spent $1.89 billion in the first 10 months of 2019, and $2.2 billion in the first 10 months of last year.

Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank's inflation adjustment calculator shows that $1.89 billion in 2019 has the same buying power as $2.16 billion now, meaning inflation alone accounts for most of the increase.

Still, with just over 9 million visitors last year, the industry is still focusing on the issue of destination management.

John De Fries, president and CEO of the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority noted that some in the state want to rethink its relationship with the industry, sharing that lawmakers have proposed measures to eliminate the HTA entirely.

De Fries told PBN the HTA structure is 25 years old.

A measure in the State legislature this session, House Bill 1381, proposed a study into different tourism governance models in use around the world that De Fries said he thinks could help inform what Hawaiʻi's model should be in the future.

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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