If you measure it by landmass, Hawaii is one of the smallest states in the union. If you measure it by tourism, however, it's easily one of the largest. Case in point: The state's annual visitor totals, which set new records for the sixth year in a row in 2017, according to data published last week by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA).
According to HTA, a total of 9.38 million people visited Hawaii last year, up 5 percent from 8.93 million in 2016. Collectively, those visitors stayed 4.3 percent longer and spent 6.2 percent more during their trip -- a total of $16.78 billion, which generated a record $1.96 billion in state tax revenue and supported a record 204,000 jobs statewide.
The Big Island saw the largest tourism increase, followed by Kauai, Maui, and Oahu.
"What tourism generated for Hawai'i in 2017, highlighted by record totals in the five major categories that convey the industry's importance to residents and the state's economy, is rewarding and should not be taken for granted," said HTA President and CEO George D. Sziget. "It's especially heartening that tourism is supporting 204,000 jobs in Hawaii, knowing how the industry's success helps families, businesses, and communities statewide."
Hawaii's hotel industry also saw record performance in 2017, according to HTA, which said hotels in Hawaii averaged a record $212 in revenue per available room (RevPAR) for all of 2017, up 5.4 percent from 2016. Hotels' average daily rate (ADR), meanwhile, was $264 -- also a new annual record -- while occupancy averaged 80 percent. ADR was up 4.1 percent from 2016 while occupancy was up 1 percent.
"Coming into 2017the outlook was soft for the hotel industry, particularly in the third quarter, but the rates that hotels commanded, and the revenues generated, turned out to be far greater than anyone anticipated on a statewide level," said Jennifer Chun, HTA director of tourism research.
The state's positive performance last year is due in large part to new airlift, according to HTA, which said total trans-Pacific air capacity to the Hawaiian Islands increased 1.8 percent last year, to a record 12.2 million seats.
"The island of Hawaii really stands out for the way it is bouncing back with healthy increases in RevPAR and occupancy," Chun continued. "The increased air seat capacity introduced in 2017 translated into success for the hotel properties."
Concluded Sziget: "We are grateful for the efforts of Hawaii's tourism industry partners to constantly improve their facilities and product offerings, and the outstanding service that our tourism professionals provide to visitors coming from around the world. HTA's marketing programs drive travel demand for Hawaii, but it's the warmth and aloha of our people throughout the islands that keep them coming back."