Hawaii's tourism industry is off to a stronger start in 2013 thanks to more visits by people from Japan and the western U.S.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority said Thursday that total visitors in January were up nearly 6 percent compared with the same month last year. The islands welcomed nearly 682,000 visitors in January.
Total spending for the month was $1.43 billion, up 5.7 percent compared with January 2012.
Chief executive Mike McCartney of the Hawaii Tourism Authority said the gains are the result of significant increases in the number of seats available on flights to Hawaii. The state is on pace to have more spots on flights available this year than ever before, he said.
"We recognize that we cannot take this growth for granted," McCartney said. "It has taken three years to rebuild our airlift after having lost 1.5 million air seats between 2007 and 2009.
"It is important that we continue to focus our efforts on highlighting our unique people, place and culture in order to drive demand, offer opportunities for travel during slower fall and spring shoulder seasons and increase visitor distribution throughout the Hawaiian islands," he said.
The biggest increases in the market came from air travelers from western states. Just over 243,000 visitors came from the region in January, up 9 percent compared with January last year. Spending from the western U.S. jumped 14.5 percent to $419.6 million.
Visits from Japan increased nearly 8 percent to nearly 118,000, though spending from Japanese visitors increased at a slower pace of 3.8 percent, to nearly $228 million. Average daily spending from Japanese visitors was down 1.7 percent to $334 per day.
Japanese tourists still spend more per day than tourists from the United States and other countries, though their visits are shorter. Americans and Canadians tend to stay 10 to 14 days, while Japanese stay on average fewer than six days.
Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia