Maui visitor spending down for September

While total visitor spending was down in September for Maui and Molokai and up for Lanai, the county’s three islands remained ahead of last year’s moneymaking pace for the first nine months of the year, according to figures released Thursday by the Hawai’i Tourism Authority.

Statewide, visitor spending was down to $1.04 billion in September, off 4.8 percent from the same month last year, the authority reported. The year-to-date figure through September was better for the state’s first nine months, up 4.1 percent to $11 billion.

On Maui in September, visitor spending fell 5.2 percent to $227.4 million, while its year-to-date figure rose 5.2 percent to nearly $2.7 billion. On Molokai, the month of September brought in $1.9 million, down 7.5 percent, while its first nine months were up 2.5 percent to $21.5 million. Lanai bucked the trend in September, seeing a 23.7 percent increase to $7.1 million, while its year-to-date visitor spending take rose 12 percent to $66.3 million.

Among other major islands, visitor spending on Oahu was down 10.5 percent to $560.2 million in September and fell 1.1 percent to $5.63 billion for the year. On the Big Island, spending increased 13.3 percent to $137.4 million for the month and jumped 17.1 percent to $1.44 billion for the year so far. And, on Kauai, visitors’ expenditures climbed 16.3 percent to $106.6 million in September and rose 15.2 percent to $1.1 billion for the year.

Maui’s visitor arrivals in September were almost flat, compared with the same month last year, with only a 0.2 percent increase to 163,533. The island’s year-to-date arrivals climbed 3.6 percent to 1.8 million.

Hawai’i Tourism Authority President and Chief Executive Officer Mike McCartney attributed Maui’s steady growth in year-to-date expenditures and arrivals to an increase in total airline seats to Kahului (up 5.4 percent to 1.4 million in the year’s first nine months) and to a large influx of visitors from Japan (up 19.7 percent to 62,604).

“Year-to-date results reflect our ongoing efforts to create a more sustainable tourism economy through diversification,” he said. “With an additional $2 million in legislative funding for international marketing, the HTA has been able to nurture developing global markets, which are collectively up nearly 10 percent in visitor arrivals and spending.”

Subject to wide percentage shifts because of small numbers, Molokai and Lanai saw double-digit visitor increases for the month of September – a 12.3 percent jump to 4,632 for Molokai and an 11.8 percent climb to 6,199 for Lanai.

Statewide, visitor arrivals slid 1 percent to 594,181 in September, while there was a 4.5 percent increase to 6.25 million for the year’s first three quarters.

For other islands, Oahu’s visitor arrivals were virtually flat, with only a 0.1 percent uptick to 388,800 for the month, while its year-to-date arrivals rose 5.8 percent to 3.88 million. The Big Island saw a 4.9 percent increase to 101,009 for the month and a 4.4 percent rise to 1,118,637 for the year to date. And, Kauai had a slight increase of 0.3 percent for arrivals for the month and a 4.3 percent hike to 855,047 for the year.

For person-per-day spending, the average visitor on Maui spent 8.7 percent less, down to $182.90 in September, while, over the year’s first nine months, a visitor’s daily expenses were up 1.4 percent to $187.30 on the Valley Isle. On Lanai, the average visitor spent $395.20 in September (up 36.5 percent) and $343.20 (up 12.3 percent) in the year’s first three quarters. On Molokai, the more budget-conscious visitors had $108 in average daily expenses in September (up 10.9 percent) while they spent, on average per visitor, $116.5 (up 5.3 percent) in the first three quarters of the year.

Statewide, person-per-day spending averaged $198.90 (down 3.6 percent) in September, while the figure was $192.6 (up 1.4 percent) for the year to date.

In a breakdown of visitor arrivals to the state from different market areas, the tourism authority reported that arrivals by air from the U.S. West fell 5.9 percent to 216,958 in September while visitor days decreased 4.3 percent. Total U.S. West visitor expenditures dropped 5 percent to $322.6 million for the month. For the U.S. East market, arrivals were nearly unchanged from last September at 109,794 visitors, and total U.S. East visitor expenditures was $240.4 million, roughly the same as September last year.

Japanese arrivals rose 2 percent to 136,052 in September, the authority reported. However, lower daily spending (down 11 percent to $266 per person) and a shorter length of stay for Japanese visitors led to a 14.8 percent decrease in total expenditures to $214.9 million.

Total Canadian visitor expenditures grew 5.9 percent to $39.3 million. Arrivals from Canada amounted to 19,188 visitors for the month of September.

The authority reported that there were 817,914 total airline seats to Hawaii in September, similar to a year earlier.

* Brian Perry can be reached at