Visitor spending up as tourism officials prepare for 23rd annual Honolulu Festival

The year is off to a good start for Hawaii’s tourism industry.

New numbers from the Hawaii Tourism Authority reveal 756,313 visitors came to our state, up 4.9 percent from the same time last year.

Those visitors spent a total of $1.6 billion, an increase of 10.1 percent compared to January 2016.

All islands saw growth in visitor arrivals compared to January 2016. Visitor spending increased on Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, and the island of Hawaii, but decreased on Maui.

“Japan shows significant growth in January and it’s very encouraging,” said George Szigeti, president and CEO, Hawaii Tourism Authority, “not only the visitor arrivals, but the spending from Japan was up 26.6 percent in January so we’re off to a good start. I’m cautiously optimistic that we can carry this through for the rest of the year.”

Szigeti says Hawaii’s appeal is likely contributing to this growth.

“Hawaii is in demand right now. Hawaii is safe, clean, welcoming, the Aloha spirit. I think it resonates with everybody worldwide right now,” he said.

Tourism officials are expecting the upcoming 23rd annual Honolulu Festival to draw more visitors.

The festival is expected to draw 5,500 visitors from Japan with a lineup of activities, events, and entertainment from March 10-12.

“This Honolulu Festival is now a signature event,” Szigeti said. “What I really like about it is sharing the cultural diversity of Japan and the Pacific Rim, but what I really like seeing is all our local residents who love coming down here, and the parade and the exhibits and the fireworks at the end of the show in Waikiki.”

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Schedule of Events

Friday, March 10

Friendship Gala
7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Location: Hawaii Convention Center, Kamehameha Exhibit Hall 1
The Friendship Gala features exciting cultural entertainment by Honolulu Festival performers, along with delicious cuisine from some of Oahu’s premier restaurants. Funds raised by the Friendship Gala support the Honolulu Festival Foundation’s educational and cultural programs in Hawaii.

Participating restaurants include MW Restaurant, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Nico’s Pier 38, Shokudo Japanese Restaurant & Bar, Tommy Bahama Restaurant & Bar, Buho Cocina Y Cantina, Eating House 1849, and JJ French Pastry & Bistro.

Admission: Tickets are $90 per person, and $70 for individuals under 21 (under age 6 are free). Tickets can be purchased online at www.HonoluluFestival.com.

Saturday, March 11

Craft Fair / Ennichi Corner / Carnival Corner / Food Corner
10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Location: Hawaii Convention Center
More than 100 vendors exhibiting from around the world, including Hawaii and Japan. The Ennichi and Carnival corners will feature fun games hands-on activities for keiki.

Stage Performances
10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Locations: Hawaii Convention Center, Ala Moana Center, Waikiki Beach Walk
Live music, dance and cultural demonstrations from Pacific Rim countries.

Movie Showings
10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Location: Hawaii Convention Center, Third Floor (#311)
10:00 a.m. – Climbing to Spring
12:15 p.m. – Komaneko – The Curious Cat
1:30 p.m. – Komaneko’s Christmas – A Lost Present
2:00 p.m. – Farewell to Jinu
2:20 p.m. – The Calling

Maui Mikoshi Unveiling Ceremony
11:30 – 11:45 a.m.
Location: Hawaii Convention Center
The Maui Mikoshi Contest was developed exclusively for Maui high school students. This year’s winning Maui mikoshi, from Maui High School, will be unveiled and displayed at the Hawaii Convention Center over the Festival weekend. Students who created the winning mikoshi will visit Honolulu this weekend and march the Grand Parade, showcasing their mikoshi.

A Story of SUGIHARA CHIUNE (Speech and Movie)
12:00 – 3:30 p.m.
Location: Hawaii Convention Center, Third Floor (#310)
Speech: “Visas of Life” by Akira Kitade
Movie: Persona Non Grata
Movie-lovers will enjoy the fascinating story of Persona Non Grata, a new film about Japanese diplomat during World War II who helped save over 6,000 Jewish refugees from the Nazis. The movie premiered in U.S. theaters earlier this year.

Bon Dance
1:10 – 1:45 p.m., 3:10 – 3:45 p.m.
Location: Hawaii Convention Center

Honolulu Rainbow EKIDEN Kick-Off Night & Aloha DANCE COMPETITION
4:30 – 9:00 p.m.
Location: Hawaii Convention Center

Sunday, March 12

Honolulu Rainbow EKIDEN
9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Location: Kapiolani Park

WaikiKitchen
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Location: Kapiolani Park

Craft Fair / Ennichi Corner / Carnaval Corner / Food Corner
10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Location: Hawaii Convention Center
More than 100 vendors exhibiting from around the world, including Hawaii and Japan. The Ennichi and Carnival corners will feature fun games hands-on activities for keiki.

Stage Performances
10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Locations: Hawaii Convention Center, Ala Moana Center, Waikiki Beach Walk
Live music, dance and cultural demonstrations from Pacific Rim countries.

Movie Showings
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Location: Hawaii Convention Center, Third Floor (#311)
10:00 a.m. – Wood Job!
12:15 p.m. – Ecotherapy
2:00 p.m. – The Book Peddler

A Story of SUGIHARA CHIUNE (Speech and Movie)
12:00 – 3:30 p.m.
Location: Hawaii Convention Center, Third Floor (#310)
Speech: “Visas of Life” by Akira Kitade
Movie: Persona Non Grata

Bon Dance
1:55 – 2:30 p.m.
Location: Hawaii Convention Center

Grand Parade
4:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Location: Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki
Following Sunday’s cultural performances, Kalakaua Avenue will take center stage for the Grand Parade. Festival groups and performers from Asia Pacific and Hawaii will dance, sing and stage cultural demonstrations for the delight of residents and visitors lined along the sidewalk. The highly entertaining parade will also feature marching bands and floats, highlighted by the fire-breathing dragon Daijayama.

The Grand Parade is recognized by the City of Honolulu and presented with a Legacy Award for its achievements and continued service as a mediator between the City of Honolulu and its sister-city, Nagaoka City (Japan).

Nagaoka Fireworks Show
8:30 p.m.
Location: Over Waikiki Beach
The Honolulu Festival will conclude with the spectacular Nagaoka Fireworks Show over Waikiki Beach. The fireworks will be shot from barges positioned off the midpoint of Waikiki Beach. Turn in to Hawaiian 105KINE for music synced with the show.

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