HTA head: Cost a factor as stays shorten

The head of the Hawaii Tourism Authority warned of dark clouds in the tourism picture for the rest of the year and into next year as his agency released the October visitor report Wednesday.

While the visitor arrival and expenditure numbers appear decent for the first 10 months of the year, Mike McCartney, president and chief executive officer of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, noted declines in September and October, which “are expected to continue through the remainder of this year and into 2014.”

The cost of a Hawaii vacation is becoming a factor, he said, pointing to shorter stays as visitors become more cost conscientious. Currency exchange rates and competitive pricing also are affecting visitor arrivals and spending and “may contribute to continued declines and potentially move market share to competing destinations,” McCartney said.

Hawaii is seeing declines in air seat inventory from the U.S. Mainland, though there has been a “steady growth” in air seats from international destinations, he said.

For October, Hawaii total visitor expenditures declined 2.6 percent from October 2012 to $1.1 billion, and visitor arrivals were off 1.6 percent to 636,245 visitors. The state has witnessed slower growth in visitor arrivals since July, the report noted.

The statewide average daily visitor spending for October was down 1.5 percent from the same month last year to $195 per person.

Things were a little brighter on Maui in October, compared to last year. Despite a 2.6 percent drop in visitors to 173,790, higher daily spending, up 1.5 percent to $184 per person, and longer length of stay, up 2.3 percent to 8.2 days, pushed visitor expenditures up 1.1 percent to $262.9 million, the report’s narrative said.

There was a growth in visitors from Japan, up 35.6 percent (6,329); Australia, up 22.2 percent; and Canada, up 1.5 percent (14,822), in October that were offset by declines in the two largest tourism sectors for Maui, the U.S. West, off 9.9 percent (85,049), and the U.S. East (42,871), off 3.1 percent.

The HTA report also noted a 7.1 percent decline in air seats to Kahului Airport for October to 126,546.

When taking a statewide 10-month perspective on tourism for the year, the numbers are brighter. Total visitor expenditures were up 3.4 percent compared to the same period last year to $12.1 billion, and arrivals were up 3.9 percent to 6,893,038 visitors.

Despite the latter year declines, McCartney said that HTA expects “exceeding visitor arrival and spending records reached in 2012.”

For Maui for the year through October, visitor expenditures up were 8.7 percent from the same period last year to $3.1 billion. Visitor arrivals were up 3 percent to 1,973,976 for the 10-month period.

Per person per day spending for the first 10 months on Maui was up 5.2 percent to $194 while the average length of stay was nearly static at 8.02 days.

Total air seats were up 4.3 percent (1,530,438) at Kahului Airport for the 10-month period, the report said.

For Lanai, visitor expenditures were up 6.9 percent to $69.8 million for the January-to-October period, and visitor arrivals rose 3.3 percent to 62,894.

Molokai logged a 3.6 percent increase in expenditures to $24 million for the 10-month period. Visitor arrivals rose 3.3 percent to 45,682.

“We continue to work with our marketing contractors in adjusting our plans and initiatives through 2014,” said McCartney. “As we prepare for a potential downturn in Hawaii’s tourism economy, we continue to focus on driving demand from growing international markets to bolster a softening domestic market and maintain a sustainable tourism economy.”