Maui leads visitor arrivals, spending

Isle sees highest percentage jump in state in March

The Maui News and The Associated Press 

POSTED: April 28, 2010 

Maui island led all others in the state in drawing the highest percentage increases in visitor arrivals and in tourist spending in March, compared with the same month last year, state tourism officials said Tuesday. 

Arrivals on Maui increased 14.2 percent to 181,182, Lanai saw a 2.4 percent hike to 5,673 and Molokai was down 3.4 percent to 4,179, according to figures compiled by the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism and released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. 

Oahu had a 9.5 percent increase in visitors in March, followed by Kauai with 8.2 percent and the Big Island with 0.2 percent. 

Statewide, nearly 608,000 people visited the islands in March, a 9.3 percent increase over the same month last year. 

Visitor spending on Maui rose 25.2 percent to $257.7 million last month. 

Tourism officials said a contributing factor to the Valley Isle’s gains was the addition of several new flights to Maui from Canada and four areas in California – Orange County, Los Angeles, San Jose and Sacramento. 

Oahu saw an 11 percent increase in visitor spending while Kauai and the Big Island each had a hike of 3.2 percent. Molokai and Lanai reported drops in visitor spending of 11.3 percent and 11.1 percent, respectively. 

Total expenditures by visitors who came by air was up 12.7 percent to $874.2 million. That was the largest increase since April 2006, when the measure grew 15.6 percent. 

Among major islands, Maui also had the most visitor per day spending in March at $175, a 9.4 percent increase over the same month in 2009. Lanai had higher daily visitor spending at $192, but that was an 18.1 percent drop for the month. Molokai reported individual visitors spend an average of $81 per person. 

On Oahu, individual visitor spending was at $168 (up 2.6 percent) in March, followed by Kauai at $147 (down 5.6 percent) and the Big Island at $141 (up 1.5 percent). 

For the first quarter of 2010, Maui island also led in visitor arrivals with an 8 percent increase to 503,116 over the same period in 2009. Oahu saw a 2.8 percent more visitors, followed by Lanai with 2.7 percent more, Kauai with 2.2 percent more, the Big Island with 1.4 percent more and Molokai with a drop of 5 percent. 

Statewide, all top four feeder markets showed gains, including a 17.3 percent jump in visitors from Canada, followed by the West Coast (9.2 percent), East Coast (7.9 percent) and Japan (6.5 percent). 

”It is encouraging to see tourism in our state stabilizing,” said Marsha Wienert, Hawaii’s tourism liaison. The increased visitor arrivals and the slightly higher spending resulted in an additional $99 million in visitor spending, which ”benefited almost every sector of our economy.” 

Tourism is the No. 1 industry in Hawaii and the economic lifeblood of the islands. Last year’s sharp drop-off in visitors stemming from the economic crisis has taken a toll on everything from jobs to tax revenues. 

For the first three months of the year, total spending statewide grew by 5 percent, or $130 million, over the same period last year to $2.7 billion. 

The number of tourists from Asian markets outside Japan rose sharply in the quarter, with the number of Koreans nearly doubling and Chinese surging 23 percent. 

”As Governor (Linda) Lingle has stated for some time, these new developing markets are key to Hawaii’s tourism future,” Wienert said. 

Mike McCartney, president and chief executive officer of the Tourism Authority, said that, as expected, pent-up demand, a rebounding economy, the visa waiver program and aggressive marketing efforts have contributed to the tremendous growth in the Korean market. 

Asians also continue to outspend other travelers by a wide margin, but they stay in Hawaii a few days less on average. 

Tourists from Japan spent $244 per person, per day in March, with Koreans at $238. That’s about $100 more per day than travelers from the West Coast ($139) or Canadians ($132). 

McCartney said even with all the positive indicators, ”we are mindful that we are coming off an especially depressed 2009, and it is important that we sustain momentum and these positive trends.” 

”We cannot let up and must continue to work even harder to drive demand to fill the additional seats we have attracted into the market, and we need to pay attention to factors such as currency exchange rates and oil prices, which directly affect people’s ability and decision to travel to Hawaii,” he said.