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Wednesday, December 10
Race entrants the biggest spenders

Associated Press

HONOLULU -- Last year's Honolulu Marathon pumped $81.6 million into Hawaii's economy, according to a study by a Hawaii Pacific University professor and his students.

The independent study calculated that runners from Japan alone -- a total of 17,266 entrants -- generated $57 million, said Jerry Agrusa, a professor in the HPU Travel Industry Management Program.

Agrusa and a team of students interviewed more than 300 runners from seven nations and 14 states a few days before the 2002 marathon.

The study also found that 98.6 percent of first-time visitors from English-speaking countries and the U.S. mainland said they would consider returning to Hawaii for reasons other than the Honolulu Marathon, while 72 percent of first-time Japanese visitors said they would consider returning for reasons other than the marathon.

"This is a great thing for tourism," Agrusa said. "By having the marathon, we are introducing people to the destination" of Hawaii.

The study's conclusions are based on figures showing 78.2 percent of last year's runners were from outside Hawaii, he said.

For his survey, Agrusa said he used the 1.6 multiplier figure used by the state Department of Business and Economic Development -- meaning that for every $1,000 spent by out-of-state visitors, $1,600 in revenues was produced.

Similar results were seen when using another model, he said. Agrusa said he did the study on his own for a research article, but he has been contracted by the Honolulu Marathon to do a similar study on this year's race.

"We're surveying runners right now," he said. "It will be a much more extensive study."

While the questions remain the same, students hope to interview 750 participants, he said.

Agrusa said he has done similar studies for the New Orleans Mardi Gras, the University of Louisiana football program, and the Nike Open professional golf tournament.

The economic benefit from this year's race is expected to be down from last year because of fewer entrants. But that will be partially offset by $110,000 that Japanese filmmakers expect to spend creating five minutes of footage from Sunday's race for a documentary.

Gahna Production Studios will film parts of the race for a docudrama about a Japanese pop star's battle with leukemia. Teenage singer Eri Murakawa, who is in remission, will have the lead role in the film but her name will be changed to Aska.

The Hawaii-based production coordinator told Honolulu Marathon officials that the Japanese studio originally planned to shoot the running scenes at a marathon in Japan. But officials of Japan Airlines, the major sponsor of the Honolulu Marathon, persuaded the studio to shoot on location in Hawaii.

In eight of the last 10 Honolulu Marathons, half or more of the field came from Japan. The field for Sunday's race will be 60 percent Japanese, according to marathon officials.