Des­ti­na­tion Hawaii Is­land

Tourism au­thor­ity pre­dicts in­crease in cruise ship, pas­sen­ger ar­rivals

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By MICHAEL BRESTOVANSKY Hawaii Tri­bune-Her­ald

Hawaii Is­land is ex­pected to see a bump in cruise ship vis­i­tors in 2018 as the cruise in­dus­try con­tin­ues to grow.

Ac­cord­ing to data from the Hawaii Tourism Au­thor­ity, as of Septem­ber cruise ship pas­sen­ger traf­fic to the Big Is­land is 20 per­cent greater than this point last year, with nearly 172,000 pas­sen­gers visit­ing so far.

Ross Birch, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Is­land of Hawaii Vis­i­tors Bureau, said the lat­est uptick in cruise traf­fic — 2016 saw a 17 per­cent boost from the pre­vi­ous year — is partly the con­se­quence of con­ve­nience: The Hilo port is well-suited for large ves­sels such as cruise ships. Sev­eral cruise lines, seek­ing to re­duce the num­ber of port calls, have al­tered their routes to use Hilo’s port.

How­ever, Birch said new lines have added the Big Is­land to their routes, with other lines adding more sea­sonal traf­fic than be­fore.

“The vol­ca­noes are a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for peo­ple, so there’s a lot of de­mand,” Birch said.

Ap­prox­i­mately 95 per­cent of all cruise pas­sen­gers to the state passed through Hilo this year, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent data from the Hawaii Tourism Au­thor­ity. In fact, more pas­sen­gers vis­ited the

Big Is­land this year than vis­ited the en­tire state in 2016.

Birch said the cruise in­dus­try is an­tic­i­pated to con­tinue grow­ing steadily for the next sev­eral years, al­though he noted the in­dus­try’s suc­cess is pri­mar­ily tied to cus­tomer de­mand, which can be un­pre­dictable. How­ever, the in­crease in pas­sen­gers is a sign of health as the in­dus­try grad­u­ally re­cov­ers from stag­nant de­mand fol­low­ing the global fi­nan­cial re­ces­sion in 2008.

“We’re not quite back at where we were dur­ing our boom years in 2005,” Birch. “But we’re get­ting there.”

“They’re an­tic­i­pat­ing a 5 per­cent in­crease each year af­ter year,” Birch said, re­fer­ring to the cruise lines that ser­vice the state.

How­ever, cruise traf­fic might ex­ceed that es­ti­mate in the spring, when cruise lines typ­i­cally see their high­est traf­fic.

Seventy-six ships are ex­pected to stop at Hilo be­tween now and the end of June, nearly 30 more than have vis­ited the state be­tween the start of 2017 and the end of Septem­ber. Based on the ships’ max­i­mum pas­sen­ger ca­pac­ity, up to 30,000 cruise pas­sen­gers might visit the is­land each month.

The MS Pride of Amer­ica, owned by Nor­we­gian Cruise Lines and which car­ries 2,250 pas­sen­gers, will ac­count for nearly half of those 76 vis­its, with an ad­di­tional 17 vis­its by three sis­ter ships owned by Princess Cruises, which carry more than 3,000 pas­sen­gers each.

The po­ten­tial for thou­sands of tourists each month has ob­vi­ous ben­e­fits for the is­land. In 2016, cruise pas­sen­gers spent $67.3 mil­lion while visit­ing Hawaii Is­land.

“Ob­vi­ously, the cruise line in­dus­try is def­i­nitely crit­i­cal for Hilo,” Birch said. “So I think we can all look for­ward to a pe­riod of steady, sus­tain­able growth.”

HOLLYN JOHN­SON/Tri­bune-Her­ald

Nor­we­gian Cruise Lines’ MS Pride of Amer­ica cruise ship in port ear­lier this year in Hilo.

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