HONOLULU (AP) -- The number of visitors to Hawaii during the first nine months of the year climber nearly 10 percent from a year earlier, state tourism officials said Tuesday as they vowed to pursue their target of bringing a record 7.9 million tourists to the islands in 2012.
Nearly 6 million visitors have come to the islands as of the end of September, the Hawaii Tourism Authority said. They spent $10.7 billion while they were here, nearly 20 percent more than travelers spent last year.
Measured month-to-month, growth has slowed. But Hawaii Tourism Authority CEO Mike McCartney said the agency was pleased to see traveler spending hasn't weakened.
The industry's momentum should continue as several airlines add new routes to the islands, McCartney said. The flights include Hawaiian Airlines' new flight from Honolulu to Sapporo, Japan, and Jetstar's route between Honolulu and Melbourne, Australia.
"These new routes are all servicing secondary cities, which will provide greater ease of access for visitors to come to the Hawaiian Islands," McCartney said in a statement.
McCartney said besides welcoming 7.9 million visitors, the agency has a goal of $13.9 billion in visitor spending by the end of the year.
Until now, the record for visitors was 7.6 million in 2006. The all-time high for spending was $12.8 billion, hit in 2007.
Leroy Laney, a Hawaii Pacific University professor and First Hawaiian Bank economic adviser, said the visitor industry should remain strong next year, though the current pace of growth will be hard to sustain.
He pointed out hotels, particularly on Oahu, have been so full this year there's not much room for the market to expand the way it has. He wrote in an Economic Forecast paper issued by First Hawaiian Bank on Tuesday that about 3 percent growth in visitor arrivals next year would be "respectable."