Maui visitor arrivals continue to surge, set to break records

Spending grew 7.6 percent to $368.3 million in October compared to 2016

Maui appears to be on track for another record-breaking year in tourist arrivals and expenditures with October logging another month of growth, preliminary Hawai’i Tourism Authority data show.

Arrivals by air for the month grew 3 percent from 2016 with 212,649 tourists visiting the Valley Isle. The total was boosted by a 37 percent increase in visitors from Japan and a 17 percent increase from Canada, which was influenced by a strengthening Canadian dollar. Maui’s international visits by air rose 2.1 percent to 34,341.

Visitors from Maui’s top markets, the U.S. West and East coasts, also were up in October, by 1.8 percent and 7.8 percent, respectively.

Spending grew 7.6 percent to $368.3 million in October compared to 2016. A 1.9 percent rise in visitor days and 5.6 percent hike in daily spending to $219 per person drove the increase, HTA said.

“Given that Hawaii, and Maui in particular, continue to hit record arrivals and expenditures each year, any growth exhibited is favorable for the destination,” said Maui Visitors Bureau spokeswoman Leanne Pletcher last month.

Speaking after the third quarter data were released, Pletcher said that if the island kept the 3.2 percent pace of increase for the year, which was the rate of growth for the first 10 months, Maui would welcome a record 2.7 million visitors in 2017.

The previous high was 2.6 million visitors last year, which topped the previous peak of 2.5 million in 2007.

She also said that the pace of growth in visitor expenditures, if holding for the rest of the year, would break a record for the island. The $3.9 billion spent by tourists from January to October was 4.2 percent higher than 2016. The record set in 2016 was $4.5 billion.

Based on the report released Thursday, most of the visitors to Maui, 63 percent, visited the Valley Isle only and a mere 5 percent were day-trippers.

The day-tripper trend was flipped for Lanai and Molokai, where a higher percentage of visitors were day-trippers and small percentages visit the islands only.

For Lanai, 58 percent of the 5,037 visitors to the island stayed one day or less in October and only 647 or 13 percent visited the island only. Lanai’s visitor total for the month was up 7.8 percent from 2016.

For Molokai, 47 percent of the 4,364 visitors spent one day or less in October and only 14 percent visited the island only. Molokai’s October visitor count was up 3 percent from 2016.

The number of airline seats to Kahului Airport in October was virtually unchanged at 154,302.

For the entire state, visitor arrivals grew 2.8 percent to 736,974 in October with growth in air arrivals up 3.6 percent to 718,258, offsetting fewer visitors on cruise ships, which were down 21.3 percent to 18,716. For Maui, cruise ship visitors were off 22.6 percent to 25,386 for the month, though the 10-month totals were up 10.6 percent.

Visitor spending increased 4.4 percent to $1.3 billion for October for the state.

Hurricanes Maria and Irma ravaged visitor destinations in the Caribbean in September, and Pletcher said last month that there was no data showing increased bookings in Hawaii due to the damage to the resorts in the Caribbean.

“However, anecdotally we are hearing from travel wholesalers and meeting planners that there has been a shift away from some of the Caribbean islands that suffered the most damage to other warm weather destinations, Hawaii included,” she said.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.

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