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Hurricane Lane dashed some travel in August

But visitor spending, arrivals remain on record-breaking pace for year

The near miss of Hurricane Lane last month appeared to slow but not derail the record pace of Maui visitor arrivals and spending, according to monthly statistics released Thursday by the Hawai’i Tourism Authority.

Valley Isle visitor spending in August was down 2.6 percent to $355.2 million, compared with the same month last year, but overall, year-to-date expenditures remained up 10.4 percent to more than $3.5 billion for the year’s first eight months, the authority reported.

And Maui’s August visitor arrivals rose 5.5 percent to 246,063, although that rate of increase was less than the 8 percent growth to more than 2 million visitors for the year to date.

Visitor expenditures on Maui in August were the least of any month this year (the only month below $400 million), and it’s the only month to see a percentage decline. For arrivals, the percentage increase is on the low side but not atypical for the year. The tourism authority said the August numbers are preliminary.

Statewide, visitor expenditures were up 1.4 percent to $1.4 billion in August (up 8.8 percent to $12.3 billion for the year through August), and arrivals increased 3.2 percent to 845,072 (up 7.2 percent to 6.76 million for the first eight months).

Tourism Authority President and Chief Executive Officer George Szigeti noted Lane’s effect on statewide August visitor numbers.

“Although both visitor spending and arrivals increased in August compared to a year ago, we expected better results for this peak travel month,” he said. “Hurricane Lane deterred a segment of travelers from staying in the Hawaiian Islands, which was compounded by the continuing negative effect Kilauea volcano had on the island of Hawaii.”

Szigeti noted that the 1.4 percent increase in visitor spending in August was the lowest for any month since May 2016. And, the $1.41 billion in total visitor spending was the lowest of any month this year so far.

“These figures are a reminder as to how vulnerable tourism can be to events beyond our control and why we can never assume the impressive rates of growth Hawaii was achieving the first half of this year will continue unabated for the foreseeable future,” he said.

Szigeti added that, for the first eight months of the year, “Hawaii continued to pace well ahead of last year’s record-setting totals. So far, the tourism industry has generated $1.44 billion in state tax revenue, an increase of $116.4 million over last year, he said.

To see the detailed breakdown of how Maui island’s August figures compare with the year’s first seven months, before hurricanes threatened the islands, here’s the visitor spending and arrivals numbers for each month from January through July this year, compared with the same months in 2017:

• January, spending up 18 percent to $548.5 million; arrivals up 5.6 percent to 230,581.

• February, spending up 6.1 percent to $429.8 million; arrivals up 7.4 percent to 217,554.

• March, spending up 13.2 percent to $479.7 million; arrivals up 8.6 percent to 259,868.

• April, spending up 11.3 percent to $413.3 million; arrivals up 4.5 percent to 236,680.

• May, spending up 13.7 percent to $403.1 million; arrivals up 7.3 percent to 238,268.

• June, spending up 10.1 percent to $433.5 million; arrivals up 11.5 percent to 280,561.

• July, spending up 11.3 percent to $481.5 million; arrivals up 12.7 percent to 295,110.

Maui’s per person daily spending fell 7.6 percent in August to $194.60, although, for the year through August, it remained up 2.3 percent to $220. The island’s per person per trip spending dropped 7.7 percent to $1,443.40 for the month, but it stayed up 2.2 percent to $1,768.20 through August.

In August, Maui saw more visitors from the East Coast (up 9.6 percent) and the West Coast (up 5.8 percent) while there was a 31.4 percent decline in visitors from Japan.

The number of visitor days on Maui grew 5.3 percent to more than 1.8 million for the month.

Maui’s average daily census increased 5.3 percent to 58,874 in August. Using Maui County’s resident population figure of 166,348 as of July 1, the county’s de facto population was 225,222 in August, with 73.9 percent of those residents and 26.1 percent visitors.

Airline seats to the Hawaiian Islands increased 6 percent to 1,162,380 in August. There were more seats to Kona (up 28.2 percent), Kahului (up 17.9 percent) and Lihue (up 10.6 percent). Air seat capacity to Honolulu remained unchanged from a year ago at 735,722.

In August, Molokai and Lanai both saw dramatic percentage increases in visitor spending, compared with a year earlier. Molokai visitor expenditures rose 42.4 percent to $2.1 million (up 7.3 percent to $24.1 million for the first eight months); and Lanai tourist spending grew 42.7 percent to $7.7 million (up 38.6 percent to $73.9 million through August).

Visitor arrivals were down 12.7 percent to 3,955 on Molokai (up 6.8 percent to 40,115 through August); and arrivals were up 10.7 percent to 6,051 on Lanai in August (up 20.3 percent to 51,471 for the first eight months).

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

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