Occupancy at Maui hotels during the first half of the year ranked third-highest among more than 38,000 "island and sun" properties worldwide, according to a new report by Honolulu-based Hospitality Advisors.
Maui's hotels enjoyed an average occupancy rate of 74.1 percent for the first six months of the year, up 2 percent over the first half of 2011.
Oahu hotel occupancy ranked highest among Hawaii's so-called global competitors at 84 percent, followed by Puerto Rico at 75.9 percent, according to the "Hawaii Competitive Global Rankings" report. Kauai and Phuket, Thailand, rounded out the top five.
Marlene and Pat Pylat of Fredericksburg, Texas, eat lunch at Kepaniwai Park in Iao Valley.
The Maui News / LEAH SHERMAN photo
Hawaiian Airlines passengers wait for their luggage at Kahului Airport on Monday.
The Maui News / LEAH SHERMAN photo
The report is based on international and U.S. hotel data complied by Smith Travel Research, and covers more than 38,000 properties that represent approximately 5 million rooms.
In the revenue-per-available-room category, Maui hotels ranked highest among the main Hawaiian Islands, and second only to the Maldives archipelago.
"Maui is really one of the top revenue-generating destinations; it's at the top of the food chain for Hawaii," said Hospitality Advisors President and CEO Joseph Toy.
Revenue per available room, or RevPAR, is a key metric that represents the average daily rental revenue earned per available room during a given period.
For the first half of the year, Maui had the second-highest RevPAR at $194.54, trailing the Maldives, which had RevPAR of $448.59 for the period.
The Bahamas, French Polynesia and Aruba rounded out the top five in the category, while hotels on Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island placed in the top 10 for RevPAR.
"Clearly Hawaii is a desirable destination, but Maui even more so," Toy said. "I think Maui has done a great job positioning the island as a very strong destination in and of itself. It's been able to break away almost as a separate destination, which speaks to how strong Maui's appeal is."
At least one of Maui's higher-end properties agrees that the local industry is doing well, but still hasn't recovered to pre-recession levels.
"It's a good news, bad news story," said Matt Bailey, managing director of the Grand Wailea and vice chairman of Maui Hotel & Lodging Association's board of directors.
"We are doing much better than we've done in the last three or four years, but when everything is said and done, no matter how great our RevPAR is this year, it'll still be almost 17 percent less than it was in 2007," Bailey said of his property. "We have come a long way, which is great, but we have a long way to go."
Bailey said he believes Maui has been able to position itself as an attractive destination because it strikes a balance between urbanization and natural beauty.
"We have a perfect balance of urbanized activities, but with the natural beauty of this island, and we have to be ever-mindful of this, and do everything we can to be careful to preserve it," he said.
Maui also ranked highest among the state's major islands for its average daily rate during the first six months of the year.
Maui hotels had an average daily rate of $262.54, ranking it fourth-highest among its global competitors. The Maldives topped that category as well, with an average daily rate of $704.20, followed by French Polynesia and the Bahamas in second and third place, respectively.
Average daily rates on Kauai, the Big Island and Oahu ranked in the top 10.
Bailey estimated daily room rates in the high-end Wailea area tend to range from around $250 to $700.
Maui's strong hotel numbers mirror gains the overall visitor industry saw for the first half of the year.
Visitor arrivals to Maui were at 1.15 million through June, up 6 percent over the same time period last year, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
Of those arrivals, six out of 10 visitors stayed on Maui exclusively, the HTA said.
Visitor expenditures on Maui alone totaled $1.9 billion for the first six months of the year, an increase of 22.5 percent over last year.
The average daily spending per Maui visitor was at $198.40 through June, up 15 percent over 2011 figures.
Toy said that the state as a whole has enjoyed healthy gains in hotel occupancy amid the economic downturn.
"Despite the challenging past three years, Hawaii was able to maintain its strong positioning during the recovery cycle against its global competitors," he said in a statement. "We expect that the recovery will carry well into 2013."
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at email@example.com.