Hawaii's rebounding tourism industry surged in January as the Aloha State posted a record $1.3 billion in visitor spending.
The total was a 14% increase from the same month last year and the best one-month total on record, surpassing December's peak by $47 million, according to new statistics from the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
State tourism officials attributed the record to more visitors and to a greater amount spent by each person.
Hawaii attracted 643,616 visitors, a 7.7% increase from January 2011, and they spent an average of $192 per person, about 5% more than the $183 average a year earlier.
"A strong holiday season, combined with pent-up demand for travel to the Hawaiian Islands, increases in airlift and a large delegation of convention attendees were all contributing factors to the increases seen in January," said Mike McCartney, president of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
The biggest increases in visitors came from Canada, the eastern half of the U.S. and Japan. Convention-goers also contributed to the increase, with the American Farm Bureau Federation Convention bringing 6,000 delegates to the islands.
The state's tourism industry suffered heavy blows from the recession and the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March, which reduced the number of visits from big-spending Japanese vacationers and business travelers.
But Hawaii's tourism numbers began to rebound in the summer of last year, thanks to stronger economies in the U.S. and other countries, such as Australia, China and Brazil.
To capitalize on the surge of Hawaii's popularity, several airlines have announced plans to add new service to the islands.
Starting in June, United Airlines will operate new daily nonstop flights from Washington-Dulles International Airport to Honolulu and Hawaiian Airlines will add daily nonstop flights from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport to Honolulu.