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Maui visitor numbers slowed but still up in wake of Olivia

Vistor spending in September also up but only 2nd time this year with less than $400 million

Wailuku restaurant 808 on Main was boarded up for the storm on Sept. 11 for Tropical Storm Olivia. The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI photo

Overall visitor spending in September was up, slightly, for Maui in the same month the island was hit by Tropical Storm Olivia, the Hawai’i Tourism Authority reported.

For the month, Maui tourist expenditures rose 0.4 percent to $334.4 million, while spending for the year’s first nine months increased 11.8 percent to nearly $3.9 billion on the Valley Isle. It was only the second time this year that a single month showed visitor spending of less than $400 million. The only other month was August, when Tropical Storm Lane threatened but did not make landfall on the island. Olivia made landfall on Maui and Lanai on Sept. 12, wreaking the most flood damage to the northwest part of the islands near the storm’s eye.

Both storms approached the islands as hurricanes before losing power and downgrading to tropical storms, drawing national media attention.

Last month, the tourism authority reported that Maui County hotels and resorts saw occupancy rates dip an average of 2.1 percent in September, compared with the same month last year.

On Molokai, visitor spending was up 84.2 percent to $4.4 million in September and up 12.8 percent to $28.5 million for the year’s first three quarters. On Lanai, spending dropped 6.4 percent to $6.4 million for the month, and expenditures grew 9 percent to $80.2 million for the year to date.

Despite Olivia, Maui’s visitor arrivals were up 5.9 percent in September, compared with the same month a year ago, and arrivals for the year rose 7.8 percent to 2,217,043. Molokai’s visitor arrivals fell 14.3 percent to 4,644 for the month, but they were up 2.9 percent to 44,759 for the year’s first nine months. On Lanai, visitor arrivals increased 0.9 percent to 5,008, while they were up 18.2 percent to 56,479 for the year.

Maui’s per person per day spending declined 8.9 percent to $206.30 in September and increased 3.5 percent to $218.80 for the year. Molokai’s per person expenditures went up 83.1 percent to $250.40 for the month and grew 9.3 percent to $137 for the year. On Lanai, per person spending fell 15.2 percent to $413.70 in September and dropped 11.9 percent to $417.40 for the year.

The authority reported that visitors to Maui increased in September from Canada (up 14.1 percent), Japan (up 11.5 percent), the East Coast (up 6.5 percent) and the West Coast (up 3.6 percent). The island’s average daily census increased 10.1 percent to 54,049 visitors in September.

Statewide, total visitor expenditures were up 6.4 percent to $1.28 billion for the month, and they were up 9.8 percent to $13.62 billion for the year. Visitor arrivals increased 3.5 percent to 724,863 for the isles in September, and they were up 6.5 percent to 7,492,138 visitors for the year to date.

Air seats to the Hawaiian Islands increased 10.3 percent to 1,020,217 in September. Kahului Airport saw a 16.3 percent rise in air seats available for the Valley Isle. All airports saw more seats destined for Hawaii, except for Hilo, where there was an 8.7 percent drop.

For more information, visit www.hawaiitourismauthority.org and click on research, monthly visitor statistics and September 2018 visitor stats press release.

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