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Hawaii tourism is expected to fly high this year with the addition of 680,313 airplane seats.
The 6.8 percent gain, which adds lift to all major markets except Canada, will bring the estimated total seats to 10.75 million, which would surpass the prior seat peak and put the state on the path to setting more arrivals and spending records.
“The success of our visitor industry has a direct correlation with the increased airlift, and we are committed to ensuring that we maintain a strong inventory of air seats to support our industry and our state’s economy,” said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, which released the estimate Friday (full doc embedded in PDF below).
An 8.5 percent gain in air seats helped bring nearly 8 million visitors to Hawaii and generate $14.3 billion in visitor spending in 2012, which was the first year since 2006 that spending and arrivals set simultaneous year-end records.
The nearly 10.1 million seats last year came within 97 percent of the nearly 10.4 million seats that were in the market in 2006, which was the peak for airlift and visitor arrivals, said Chris Kam, senior director of market insights for the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.
HTA expects new lift this year will help it reach aggressive targets of $14.88 billion in visitor spending and 8.16 million visitors. New routes from the U.S. and Asia-Pacific regions to the Hawaiian Islands from Boise, Idaho; Spokane, Wash.; San Diego; Taiwan; Auckland, New Zealand; and Tokyo-Narita are contributing to seat growth.
Seats in Hawaii’s core U.S. West market are expected to rise 2.4 percent to 6.28 million. An anticipated 10.8 percent seat gain for the higher-spending U.S. East market would bring the total to 838,890. And air seats from Japan, Hawaii’s top international market, could grow 14.5 percent to 2.1 million in 2013.
“More seats have been added from Japan than any other market,” Kam said. “That’s significant since it would be the first year since 2001 that the market has passed 2 million seats.”
Oceania, which is made up of visitors from Australia and New Zealand, might see air seats expand by 41.5 percent to 397,021.
“This is the greatest number of seats that we’ve seen from this region in more than a decade,” Kam said.
Seats from Other Asia, which includes South Korea, China and Taiwan, are expected to rise 18.1 percent to 481,968.
“The growth rate in seats from this market is second only to Oceania,” Kam said.
Gains from all these markets are expected to offset a 2 percent decline in seats from Canada and a 0.7 percent drop in seats from Other Markets, which encompasses Europe and Latin America. ___