Visitor numbers up in April after months of decline

After months of declines, visitor arrivals to Maui County edged up 2.3 percent to 198,450 in April, compared with the same month last year, according to statistics released Thursday by the Hawai’i Tourism Authority.

For Maui island, visitor arrivals increased 2.7 percent to 195,659 in April, while there were declines of 8.3 percent to 4,055 on Molokai and 6.3 percent to 5,315 on Lanai, according to the authority. (Because of small numbers of arrivals, percentage changes on Molokai and Lanai swing wildly.)

Maui arrivals in April were up from the U.S. West (1.6 percent), U.S. East (4.9 percent) and Canada (15.4 percent) while the island saw a 24 percent decline in visitors from Japan.

For Maui, the April arrival figure was the first venture into positive territory this year. In January, arrivals to the island were down 2.8 percent to 195,400 from January 2013. In February, the island welcomed 2.9 percent fewer visitors (188,774), and in March arrivals to Maui fell 2.7 percent to 215,485.

In 2013, visitor arrivals were up 2.3 percent compared with 2012.

Total visitor expenditures for Maui in April were up only 0.1 percent to $295.8 million, while year-to-date spending (January through April) was off by 1.7 percent to $1.3 billion, compared to a year earlier. On Lanai, visitor spending in April decreased 7 percent to 5.7 million (down 12.7 percent for the year to date), and on Molokai tourist spending was up 19.6 percent to $2.5 million, although the Friendly Isle’s year-to-date spending was off 1.8 percent to $11.8 million.

Statewide, visitor spending dropped 2.2 percent to nearly $1.1 billion in April, and year-to-date expenditures were down 2.9 percent to almost $4.9 billion from a year earlier.

Maui had a 6.5 percent increase in April for total visitor days while Molokai saw 5.4 percent growth in visitor days and Lanai had a 13.1 percent decline. Statewide, there was a slight 0.6 percent drop in total visitor days.

The Valley Isle posted a 6.1 percent decline in per person per day spending to $190.10 while Molokai had a 13.5 percent increase to $135.40 and Lanai had a 7 percent climb to $341.20, tops in the state.

Statewide, per person per day spending declined 1.6 percent to $187.90.

The authority reported that in April there were 898,448 total air seats to Hawaii, with a 7.5 percent growth to 166,673 for Kahului Airport and a 4.3 percent growth to 51,740 for Lihue Airport on Kauai from April 2013. The increase in air seats to Maui and Kauai offset fewer seats for Honolulu (down 1 percent to 623,999) and Hilo (down 17.6 percent to 3,234). Seats for Kailua-Kona were unchanged in April at 52,802.

Kahului Airport also saw a 1.9 percent increase in total air seats for the first four months of 2014, the visitor authority said.

Hawai’i Tourism Authority President and Chief Executive Officer Mike McCartney said that for the first four months of this year, the statewide trend has been a softening of tourism, “compared to the record growth Hawaii’s tourism economy experienced in 2013.”

The authority forecast “a continued slowdown” through the second quarter of this year, a traditionally slower travel period for the state, he said.

McCartney noted that factors affecting visitor arrivals in Hawaii include growing competition, the strengthening of the U.S. dollar against international currencies and other economic conditions.

The authority continues to focus on diversifying Hawaii’s international markets by increasing awareness and interest in traveling to the islands in markets like Australia, New Zealand, China, Korea, Taiwan and Latin America. The HTA also is working on strengthening core markets in the United States and Japan, McCartney said.

* Brian Perry can be reached at