HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii is on track to welcome a record number of visitors to the islands this year, the Hawaii Tourism Authority said Thursday.
The agency made the announcement while releasing tourism data showing 8.6 percent more visitors came to the islands in October. Travelers spent 12.7 percent more while they were here during the month.
"The HTA is optimistic that this positive momentum will continue through the rest of the year," CEO Mike McCartney said in a statement. This will lead the agency to "exceed our aggressive 2012 targets of 7.89 million total visitor arrivals and $13.9 billion in total expenditures," he said.
Until now, 7.6 million was the greatest number of visitors that ever came in Hawaii in one year. That record was marked in 2006. The all-time high for spending was $12.8 billion, reached in 2007.
Travelers from Hawaii's biggest market — the West Coast — increased 9.6 percent in the month to 255,602. The gains came as the number of seats on scheduled flights to Hawaii grew 7.4 percent.
The HTA said service increased from cities including Los Angeles and Las Vegas, which offset declines in service from San Francisco and Portland.
The number of Japanese travelers surged 15.2 percent to 125,742 visitors. These gains accompanied a 16.5 percent jump in the number of seats to Hawaii from Japan as airlines added direct flights from Honolulu to Fukuoka and Sapporo and increased service from Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo's Narita airport.
The tourism authority said it was working with marketing and industry partners to drive travel to the neighbor islands.
The Big Island led all islands in visitor growth during October.
The agency said 14.1 percent more visitors traveled to Hawaii Island. Visitors to Maui climbed 5.4 percent and increased 2.7 percent to Kauai.
Travel to Oahu grew 7.6 percent.