Tourism officials say a growing timeshare industry will help Hawaii break the state’s visitor record this year.

Hawaii Tourism Authority data shows timeshares were up 4.9 percent for the first three months of the year, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports (http://bit.ly/1EAja06 ).

Carl Bonham is the executive director at the University of Hawaii economic research organization who predicted the record-breaking year on Monday at a Chamber of Commerce Hawaii event exploring a new wave of timeshare customers.

“Total visitor arrivals hit a record in 2014, and we’ll hit one in 2015,” he said.

Bonham says Oahu hotel room rates have risen by double digits, possibly influencing the shift in tourist behavior to timeshares.

Tourism authority director Daniel Nahoopii said the increase in timeshares could also be caused by repeat travelers exploring places to stay.

“What we are seeing is that hotel usage hasn’t really dropped,” Nahoopii said. “It’s just that more people are coming, and they are staying in other accommodations like vacation rentals, condominiums and timeshares.”

The America Resort Development Association represents the timeshare industry. President and CEO Howard Nusbaum said timeshares generate 4,000 jobs, $100 million in wages, and $67 million in tax revenue annually in Hawaii.

“Hawaii is the most sought-after timeshare destination, with nearly $1 billion in sales,” he said. “At 85.2 percent you’ve also got the highest timeshare occupancy in the U.S.”

Legislators are considering adopting a two-year, 2 percent increase in the transient occupancy tax. If it passes, ARDA executive director Blake Oshiro says it isn’t likely to impact the timeshare industry’s growth.

“It’s small, so most owners probably won’t even notice the increase,” he said.

Photo Credit: Hulopoe Beach on Lanai in Hawaii. The beach is adjacent to the Four Seasons Manele Bay Resort. There's plenty of sand, shade trees and warm water for locals and tourists to share. Gary A. Warner / Orange County Register/MCT