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Hawaii tourism officials slightly lower ambitions

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 5, 2014 at 4:53 pm •  Published: March 5, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) — State tourism officials aim to lure 8.4 million travelers to the islands this year, instead of the 8.7 million targeted earlier, David Uchiyama, the Hawaii Tourism Authority vice president, said Wednesday.

The less ambitious goal comes after several months of slowing growth in the state's biggest industry, but it's still 2.5 percent higher than the record number of visitors who came to Hawaii last year.

Last week the agency released data showing visitors spent 5 percent less in January than the same month last year. It was the fifth straight month of spending declines.

Officials say the tourism economy is starting to plateau after two years of record-breaking growth. Fluctuating exchange rates, growing competition and the increasing cost of a Hawaiian vacation have all contributed to the slowing trend.

"Demand for the destination is extremely high — in fact you'll see at all-time highest levels — but the barriers to converting that demand are also very high," said John Monahan, president of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, which markets the state to North America.

Uchiyama said the state is losing what he called "the bottom tier" of travelers from the western part of the U.S. mainland. If this lasts, he told industry professionals in a presentation of the agency's spring marketing update, airplanes will be less full.

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