Visitor arrivals up in key markets

Maui is reaping the benefits of more than 14,000 additional airline seats to the island, with more visitors overall in January and more coming from key markets, the Hawaii Tourism Authority reported Thursday.

The island’s visitor arrivals grew 6.5 percent to 200,962 in January, compared with the same month a year ago, the authority said. Key market increases included the U.S. West, up 9 percent to 81,851; the U.S. East, up 2.7 percent to 58,421; Canada, up 12 percent to 34,560; and Japan, up 27 percent to 7,014.

Events such as the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, held Jan. 3 to 7 in Kapalua, helped boost Maui’s visitor expenditures 5.8 percent to $391.4 million for the first month of the year, according to the authority.

“Maui will continue to welcome various festivals and events through the first quarter of 2013, including World Whale Day, the Maui Plein Air Painting Invitational and Maui Pops Orchestra, which will help drive demand for travel to the island through these unique experiences,” the tourism agency said in announcing January statistics.

Statewide, visitor arrivals were up 5.9 percent to 681,854 in January, with visitor expenditures up 5.7 percent, or $77.3 million, from the same month in 2012 to $1.43 billion, although the comparison is not adjusted for inflation. Daily spending statewide increased 4 percent to $202 per person.

U.S. West visitors to Hawaii grew for the 15th straight month (since November 2011) with a 9 percent jump to 243,053. Those same visitors spent 14.5 percent more to $419.9 million. U.S. East arrivals were up as well, but by lesser amounts.

Total expenditures for Maui visitors increased 5.8 percent to $391.4 million, and per-person daily spending was up 4.3 percent to $211.90.

Visitor arrivals on Molokai jumped 13.2 percent to 5,590, and on Lanai arrivals increased 2 percent to 6,528. (Because of small numbers, percentages on Molokai and Lanai can swing dramatically up or down.)

Visitor expenditures on Molokai in January grew 13.5 percent to $4.5 million, and spending on Lanai was up 8.2 percent to $7.9 million. Daily per-person spending on Molokai rose 19 percent to $129.70, while such spending on Lanai went up 12.1 percent to $316.90.

“Significant gains in air seats have been a major contributor to the growth in arrivals throughout the state, and this year, we forecast reaching 10.7 million air seats, surpassing the record high of 10.6 million seats in 2006,” said Mike McCartney, president and chief executive officer of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

“The growth from our international markets has been considerable, making up 34 percent of total air seats, with new nonstop routes from Taipei (Taiwan) and Sendai (Japan) and increased service from Australia and New Zealand commencing this year,” McCartney said. “We will continue to support these increases in air access, which will help to open up opportunities for us to further diversify and grow our international and U.S. East markets, as well as expand our meetings, conventions and incentives market.”

Hawaii tourism officials recognize that such growth can’t be taken for granted, he said.

“It has taken three years to rebuild our airlift after having lost 1.5 million air seats between 2007 and 2009,” he said. “It is important that we continue to focus our efforts on highlighting our unique people, place and culture in order to drive demand, offer opportunities for travel during slower fall and spring shoulder seasons and increase visitor distribution throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

“While our industry is sensitive to the global economy, the HTA continues to work with our industry partners to maintain momentum to reach our targets of $14.88 billion in visitor expenditures and 8.17 million arrivals this year,” McCartney said.

* Brian Perry can be reached at