Southwest Airlines had their inaugural flight to Maui from Oakland on Sunday, April 7th. The first departure flight is schedule for today from Kahului back to Oakland. Starting on Wednesday, flights will increase to two flights per day in each direction.
Travelers departing the aircraft were greeted with lei’s, goodie bags, and food! Passengers described the crew as welcoming and the flight entertaining. Maui singer and songwriter Lily Meola was on board and played a few songs for the 175 passengers.
A special blessing was done on the aircraft after the passengers had disembarked. A lolo ana ceremony, traditionally done on new canoes, was done by Kumu Kapono Kamaunu and Ua Aloha Maji. The ceremony is meant to bring a connection between the pilots and crew to the land.
Service on Southwest to Maui from San Jose will begin at the end of May. Dates for service from Sacramento, San Diego, and Lihue will be announced in the future.
With an increase of over 6% in 2017, the number of visitors traveling to Maui could hit the 3 million mark for 2019. Visitor spending also increased by over 8% to $5.07 billion.
Hawaii overall is expected to surpass 10 million visitors for 2018. This is an increase of 1.8% according to the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. Expected visitor spending is over $19 billion. There was on average 242,629 visitors in the Hawaiian Islands on any given day during 2018.
In an effort to balance the impact of so many visitors, changes in promotional tactics have been started. New videos focusing on the cultural appreciation, ocean health and safety, have started playing on social media, resort websites, and in hotel rooms.
Maui had growth in both visitor spending and visitor arrivals for the month of October in comparison to the same time last year according to the Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau.
Although visitor spending was down in August and September due to Hurricane Lane and Tropical Storm Olivia, spending was back up in October to $377 million. Even with the storms interrupting the months of August and September, for the 10 month span of January through October visitor spending was up 10.9% to $4.26 billion. This total puts Maui on track to break last year’s record.
Air travel to Maui has increased making it an easier destination for visitors which will in turn increase the amount of visitor spending. Although the tourism industry is fragile and affected by multiple sources, Maui remains focused on continuing to make Maui a top global destination.
Any transportation network companies that have been licensed by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission or a county agency, will soon be able to do drop-off and pickups at Kahului Airport.
This is the first the rules for commercial services for airport services have been amended since 2002. Uber and Lyft have been testing a pilot program since December last year. The pilot program found there was a need and interest in services at the airport.
The hope is for Maui to test a similar type of pilot program in the middle of September or early October. Honolulu has a designated area for ride share companies to do pick ups. Maui Airport officials have met with Uber and Lyft to hear how other cities do pickups and to make a plan to implement at the Kahului Airport.