HONOLULU (AP) — A recovering global economy, strong yen, stable oil prices, more flights and marketing campaigns helped bring a record number of tourists to Hawaii last year, the Hawaii Tourism Authority said Thursday.
Nearly 8 million travelers — 7,998,815, to be exact — visited the islands in 2012. That's an increase of nearly 10 percent over the previous year. It also breaks the previous record of 7.6 million visitors marked in 2006, before the financial crisis and recession encouraged travelers to stay home.
Mike McCartney, CEO of the tourism agency, said his organization focuses on encouraging airlines to launch new nonstop routes to the islands. Hawaiian Airlines started direct flights from Honolulu to New York City and the Japanese cities of Fukuoka and Sapporo in 2012. United Airlines launched a nonstop flight to Dulles airport outside Washington, D.C.
The tourism authority — a state agency funded by a tax on hotel rooms and other short-term accommodations — worked hard to tell travel agents about what Hawaii has to offer and prepared customized marketing programs for different cities and regions, McCartney said.
"The foundation of it all is to make sure that we support our competitive advantage — which is our people, our place and our culture — as a destination providing a unique experience to our guests," McCartney said in an interview Wednesday.
Travelers spent a record $14.3 billion in Hawaii last year. This is nearly 19 percent more than they spent in 2011 and it beats the annual spending record of $12.8 billion marked in 2007.