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Maui continues on record-setting pace for visitor arrivals

Visitors soak up the sun at Kaanapali Beach last week. The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority released statistics for the first half of the year that show Maui County is on pace for a fourth straight record-breaking year for welcoming air travelers. Visitor arrivals were up 7.6 percent to 1.46 million and expenditures were up 12.2 percent to $2.7 million for the year’s first six months. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Maui island visitor arrivals are on pace to reach nearly 2.9 million visitors by year’s end, a milestone that would make 2018 the fourth straight record-breaking year for air travelers to the Valley Isle, according to statistics released this week by the Hawai’i Tourism Authority.

For the first six months of this year, 1,463,513 visitors flew to Maui, up 7.6 percent from the 1,360,600 arrivals in the first half of last year. Looking at month-by-month arrivals, June had the greatest percentage increase — up 11.5 percent to 280,561.

Another key metric, visitor spending, was up 12.2 percent to $2.7 billion in the first half of the year. The island’s visitor days were up 7.3 percent to 11.96 million for the year through June. Per person per day spending rose 4.6 percent to $226.40, and per person per trip expenditures increased 4.3 percent to $1,850.30.

The only Maui visitor metric that posted negative results was average length of stay, which was down 0.2 percent to 8.17 days for the first half of the year. The authority’s report noted that the length of stay of visitors from Canada statewide dropped 2.3 percent to 12.51 days.

Also for the year’s first six months, Lanai posted double-digit percentage increases for visitor arrivals (up 22.2 percent to 39,169) and expenditures (up 34.5 percent to $57.6 million).

Lori Holland, director of public relations for Four Seasons Resort Lana’i, said the surge in visitor numbers stems from the ongoing aftereffects of the $75 million renovation of the resort at Manele Bay, which closed the hotel for seven months in 2015 and 2016. Rooms at the sister Koele resort were used to house construction workers.

The Manele hotel reopened in February 2016 as the Four Seasons Resort Lanai with 217 guest rooms, including 51 suites.

It’s taken awhile to rebuild visitor awareness of the resort, Holland said, adding that marketing results are “not instantaneous,” but “we are seeing the fruit of those efforts.”

The Koele resort remains closed while it undergoes a transformation to a “spa and wellness destination,” she said. A timeline calls for reopening Koele in early 2019.

Molokai reached the half-year point with visitor arrivals up 6.1 percent to 30,516 and spending down 2.6 percent to $19.1 million.

Statewide, visitor arrivals climbed 8.2 percent to 4,982,843 from January through June. Tourist spending grew 10.8 percent to nearly $9.3 billion. Per person daily spending increased 3.3 percent to $206.80, and per person per trip spending rose 2.4 percent to $1,858.70.

Visitor arrivals by air increased 11.3 percent to 2,065,554 from the West Coast, the islands’ largest market; went up 8.3 percent to 1,130,783 from the East Coast; rose 1.2 percent to 746,584 from Japan; and grew 5.7 percent to 305,138 from Canada. All other international markets were up 10 percent to 668,782.

The tourism authority reported that, in June, visitors to Maui were up 14.1 percent from Canada, up 11.2 percent from the West Coast, up 11 percent from the East Coast and up 3.4 percent from Japan.

Maui’s average daily census grew 12.9 percent to 73,988 visitors in June. Using Maui County’s resident population figure of 166,348 as of July 1, the county’s de facto population was 240,336 in June, with 69.2 percent of those residents and 30.8 percent visitors.

Airlines added seats to meet demand for travel to Hawaii, with 10.3 percent more seats (6,622,844 in total) to all major islands in the first half of the year. The authority’s report noted air seat capacity to Kona was up 37.5 percent, while Lihue was up 45.1 percent and Hilo was up 41.4 percent for the half year.

In June, air seats for Kahului Airport were up 16.4 percent.

* Brian Perry can be reached at bperry@mauinews.com.

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