Although Maui's visitor arrival and total expenditure growth numbers were not as gaudy as Oahu's, the May visitor data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority for the Valley Isle was still "very good" and on that coveted "slow and steady climb" upward, said the executive director of the Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau.
"Our numbers are very good," said Terryl Vencl on Friday. "We want to be sure as we continue to increase our ADRs (average daily room rates) and our expenditures, we are careful not to scare away anyone."
In May, total Maui island visitor expenditures rose 12.3 percent over last May to $248.1 million, the report released Thursday said. The higher daily spending, up 4 percent to $193 per person, and a 6.8 percent growth in arrivals over last May fed the increased visitor expenditures. There were 172,052 visitors to Maui in May.
All of the top four visitor markets to the island showed growth in arrivals compared to May 2011 with Japan up 9.3 percent to 5,202, the U.S. West up 6.9 percent to 89,251, the U.S. East up 3.4 percent to 48,025 and Canada up 5 percent to 10,877.
"Canada is big for us," said Vencl. "We are seeing gains in Japan, and we are seeing gains in Korea and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) and, of course, in North America."
For the first five months of the year, total arrivals to Maui rose 6.1 percent to 945,656 while total visitor expenditures increased 16.6 percent to $1.6 billion, the report said.
The average length of stay on Maui was up 1.1 percent in May to 7.5 days and was up 1.1 percent to 8.4 days for the year through May.
Statewide, total expenditures and total arrivals were the best on record for the month, according to the preliminary statistics released by HTA. Total expenditures were up 17.5 percent compared to the same month last year to $1.1 billion.
There were 622,899 total visitors to the islands for the month, an increase of 12.5 percent from a year ago. That figure topped the previous statewide high of 599,842 visitors in May 2007.
Total visitor expenditures for the first five months grew 16.8 percent to $5.8 billion for Hawaii. Total arrivals have increased 10 percent to 3,255,048 in the first five months.
Oahu led the major Hawaiians Islands with a 15.1 percent increase in arrivals in May, compared to last year, to 397,430 visitors, the report said. It was the third consecutive month of double-digit increases for the island.
For the first five months, arrivals on Oahu grew 11.2 percent to 1,936,409 visitors; visitor expenditures increased 19.9 percent to $2.9 billion.
Vencl noted that there was a large orthodontist convention on Oahu in May that boosted visitor numbers.
Peak-and-valley visitor markets are not the ideal, she added.
"We want to see growth, consistent growth . . . steady upward trend," she said. "Peaks and valleys don't help us"
It's more difficult to plan work schedules, hiring and supply purchases with peaks and valleys, she explained. The ups and downs also affect restaurants and retailers as well as hotels.
Maui compares well to the Big Island and Kauai. In May, Kauai's visitor expenditures were $113.6 million, up 5.6 percent from last May but less than half of Maui's numbers. The Big Isle had $107.4 million in total visitor expenditures, which was a 16.6 percent increase from the previous May.
The Big Isle's arrivals were 105,134 for May, up 8.9 percent from the previous May; Kauai's arrivals were 85,174, up 4.3 percent.
For Lanai, total expenditures for May were $4.8 million, down 31.4 percent from last year. Five-month totals were better, down only 1 percent to $37.7 million.
Total arrivals for the island, purchased this week by Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison, were 5,781 visitors, down 6.3 percent. For the year to date, the total was 32,168, down 6.9 percent.
Molokai had total expenditures of $2.2 million, up 11.9 percent from the previous May. Total expenditures through May were $12 million, up 0.5 percent.
Visitor arrivals on the Friendly Isle were up 23.5 percent in May to 4,431. For the year to date, the total was 23,418, down 7 percent compared to the same period last year.
Vencl cautioned about looking too deeply into the monthly numbers for Lanai and Molokai due to their small numbers. She noted a convention or a major event such as Easter occurring in a different month between years could drastically skew the data.
The summer season is looking good, "anticipated to be even more prosperous than in previous years," the HTA report said. It cited new direct service, including Hawaiian Airlines' New York flight, United's Washington, D.C., flight and Allegiant Airlines' Las Vegas and Fresno flights.
The Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) military exercises that began Friday and will run through early August also will be a boost for tourism, HTA said. There will be 22 participating nations with 25,000 personnel joining RIMPAC.
The summer looks good for Maui too, said Vencl. Hotels are experiencing a "good booking pace for summer," she said.
Tourism officials are turning their attention to the fall.
"We want to continue to up that game all the time and make sure we are keeping our folks employed and provide a healthy economic engine for our community," she said.
* Lee Imada can be reached at email@example.com.