HONOLULU (AP) — The Hawaii Tourism Authority says spending by visitors surged nearly 9 percent during the first half of the year compared to last year.

The state agency said Thursday visitors spent $8.4 billion from January through June. That's an increase of 8.7 percent.

The number of travelers to Hawaii topped 4.6 million. That's 4.3 percent more than a year ago.

Increases from the U.S. mainland, Japan and Canada led the gains.

Spending and arrivals grew on Kauai, Oahu, Maui and the Big Island. Spending and arrivals rose by double digits on the Big Island, thanks to the return of direct air service from Tokyo to Kailua-Kona.

CEO George Szigeti says Hawaiian culture and the aloha spirit set Hawaii apart as a place for travelers to visit.