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Tourism propping up Honolulu market

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Tourism is up, and unemployment isn't so bad. Combined, they've helped keep the Honolulu housing market relatively healthy in a nation of ailing metro areas.

Not that Honolulu real estate hasn't had bumpy moments. Most recently, there has been a second-quarter downturn in home sales and prices.

And tourism this year suffered a setback: Among the myriad consequences of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March was a sudden decline in Japanese visitors to Honolulu's island, Oahu.

Visitors are a key piece of the metro Honolulu economy, to put it mildly, and earlier this year the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization (UHERO) projected that, among the eight principal islands in the archipelago that makes up the 50th state, Oahu and the Big Island of Hawaii would be most hurt by the drop-off in Japanese visitors.

Yet, overall tourism levels recently have returned almost to pre-recession levels, according to an analysis by the s...