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Hawaii Tourism Fell 2 Pct. in 1998

January 31, 1999

HONOLULU (AP) _ The head count for Hawaii’s top industry _ tourism _ fell 1.9 percent last year to 6.7 million, the first annual decline since 1993, officials said.

But officials for the state and the Hawaii Visitors & and Convention Bureau said Friday that the drop was offset by longer stays in the islands.

The continuing Asian economic crisis led to a 10.8 percent decrease in arrivals from the Asia-Pacific region. But the nearly 2.5 million people who did come increased their overall length of stay by 3.1 percent.

``Economic troubles in the Asia region plagued Hawaii’s eastbound markets throughout the year,″ said Seiji Naya, director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

``The past year was truly challenging for those Hawaii hotels, retailers, airlines, restaurants, attractions that focus primarily on the Asian visitor market as a considerable segment of their business,″ said Tony Vericella, the visitors bureau president and chief executive officer.

Meanwhile, the number of westbound visitors increased 4.1 percent to 4.2 million over 1997, and their length of stay inched up 0.1 percent.

Vericella said hopes are high that 1999 will prove better than 1998.

``At this time, the general consensus is that the Asia-Pacific market will perform better this year than it did last year, and we are working closely with the Hawaii Tourism Authority and our other industry partners to aggressively keep Hawaii at the top of mind of outbound Asia-Pacific travelers,″ he said.

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