The Japanese Influence on Hawaii's Largest Sporting Event, the 2008 Honolulu Marathon

By Lema, Joseph; Agrusa, Jerome | Journal of Tourism Challenges and Trends, July 2009 | Go to article overview
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The Japanese Influence on Hawaii's Largest Sporting Event, the 2008 Honolulu Marathon


Lema, Joseph, Agrusa, Jerome, Journal of Tourism Challenges and Trends


Introduction

The sports tourism industry is rapidly emerging as one of the most important segments in the tourism industry. The economic impact of the large sporting events market is increasing greater in comparison to that of the traditional tourism market (Kim, Chon and Chung, 2003; Yoo and Weber, 2005). One area of tourism that Hawaii is focusing on is sport tourism. With the decline in Hawaii's sun, sea, and sand tourism, sport tourism has become an attractive form of alternative tourism for the island state. Hawaii's dependence on the tourism industry is clearly shown with over seven (7.36) million visitors traveling to Hawaii annually and over $11.5 billion in total expenditures per year (Blair, 2008).

The largest organized participatory event in Hawaii is the Honolulu Marathon Some 23,232 runners registered for the 2008 Honolulu Marathon making it the sixth largest in the world as well as the third largest marathon in the United States, trailing only New York (34,729) and Chicago (32,332). Of the 23,232 Honolulu Marathon runners, over 16,827 were out-of-state runners, with over 82% of those runners coming from Japan.

The Honolulu Marathon attracts nearly 24,000 entrants as well as the associated Marathon Expo is the largest and most lucrative in the islands with almost 70,000 turnstile clicks over four days. With over 80 percent of the International runners coming from Japan, participation of the Honolulu Marathon is critical to its success.

An excellent example of the power of increasing visitor-event affinity is the Honolulu Marathon. While Japanese tourists visiting the Hawaiian Islands dropping by almost half from 1997 to 2007, Japanese participation in the Honolulu Marathon has remained very strong over the same decade. In 1997, approximately one-third (2.2 million) of the total 6.7 million tourists visiting Hawaii were Japanese (Yamanouchi, 2004). As reported by the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT), since that 1997 peak, the number of Japanese tourists travelling to Hawaii has dwindled, with only 1.3 million Japanese visiting for a total of 7.44 million tourists in 2007 (DBEDT, 2008). The number of Japanese participants in the Honolulu Marathon has remained nearly constant with more than 17,000 entries for every year during the same period from 1997 to 2007.

As Japanese travellers spend more money than any other visitors that travel to Hawaii, Japanese tourism to Hawaii is a critical issue (Agrusa, Lema, and Tanner, 2008; DBEDT, 2003; Latzko, 2005). Japanese tourists spend at significantly higher levels of money than any other tourist groups in Hawaii according to a number of studies (Keown, 1989; Reisigner and Turner, 2002; Rosenbaum and Spears, 2005; Chang and Chun, 2006; Dougan, 2007;). The average planned expenditures per person for Japanese visitors were $1,416 compared to $644 for U.S. visitors as indicated by a 2004 study by Professors Rosenbaum and Spears from the University of Hawaii (Schaefers, 2004). "Japanese visitors were the highest-spending tourists on Oahu in the first half of the year, doling out an average of $236 per person daily, while tourists from Canada spent the least on the island, at about $105 a day" (Yamanouchi, 2003, p. D1). By spending more than twice as much on entertainment and shopping than its United States counterpart, the Japanese visitor is an integral component of Hawaii's tourism.

Recently, showing a change in preference from static activities to dynamic activities, Japanese tourists have increasingly entered sporting events such as marathons, (Litvin, 1999; Turner and Reisinger, 1999; Cai and Combrink, 2000; Arakawa, 2006; Chang and Chun, 2006; Agrusa, Maples, Kitterlin, and Tanner, 2008).

Methodology

This study consisted of Japanese runners in the 2008 Honolulu Marathon as the sample population. Originally written in English, the survey instrument was converted into Japanese for the participants to complete.

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