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­Maui scores high marks in visitor satisfaction from nearly all regions

Japanese tourists, though, seem a bit harder to please

Cousins Grace McNamee, 12, (from right) and Kendall Boehm, 9, are buried in sand at the water’s edge Friday at Makena’s Oneloa Beach, or Big Beach, while their brothers, Ryan Boehm, 12, and Luke McNamee, 13, try to build a water trough so they will be splashed by an incoming wave. The Boehms are from Washington state while the McNamees hail from Minnesota, where it was 20 degrees Friday. “I like how it’s always warm here, and it has a lot of tropical stuff,” Ryan said when asked what he enjoyed about Maui. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Maui received mostly rave reviews from visitors regardless of their origin, although Japanese tourists apparently were harder to please, according to a second-quarter visitor satisfaction study prepared for the Hawai’i Tourism Authority.

Just under 69 percent (68.7 percent) of visitors from Japan who completed a survey rated their recent trip to Maui as “excellent.” Another 28.7 percent reported their trip was “above average,” and 2.6 percent said it was “poor.”

The Maui trip experience was better for visitors from the West Coast, 88.7 percent of whom rated their trip to the island as “excellent.” Another 9.4 percent said it was “above average,” and 1.8 percent said it was “below average.”

East Coast visitors rated Maui as “excellent” 90.1 percent of the time; “above average,” 8.6 percent; and “below average,” 1.1 percent.

Canadian visitors gave the Valley Isle an “excellent” rating 89.4 percent of the time; “above average,” 9.6 percent; and “below average,” 0.9 percent.

Natalie Boehm, 7, (center) poses with sister Kendall and cousin Grace. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Visitors giving Maui an “excellent” rating from Europe, Oceania, China and Korea were 84.1, 85.7, 80.8 and 83.2 percent, respectively.

Not surprisingly, Haleakala National Park was by far Maui’s most frequently visited attraction. Visitors reporting traveling to Haleakala included 34.5 percent of those from the West Coast, 45.8 percent from the East Coast, 47.5 percent from Canada, 19.8 percent from Japan, 49 percent from Europe, 25.3 percent from Oceania, 56.5 percent from China and 58.5 percent from Korea. The Maui Ocean Center was the second most popular destination for visitors from the West Coast (21.1 percent), East Coast (18.8 percent) and Canada (19.6 percent).

Haleakala’s park reservation system received high ratings from most visitors.

The study reported that, statewide, satisfaction scores were lowest among Japanese, Korean and Chinese visitors. Visitors to multiple islands tended to give higher scores than those who went to only one island.

On an 8-point scale, with 8 being “excellent” and 1 being “poor,” Maui received a 7.48 score from West Coast visitors, 7.55 from the East Coast, 7.51 from Canada, 6.89 from Japan, 7.32 from Europe, 7.35 from Oceania, 7.33 from China and 7.11 from Korea.

Kauai enjoyed higher visitor satisfaction ratings than Maui from visitors originating in Japan (7.18), Europe (7.37) and Oceania (7.52).

Japanese visitors also rated Oahu (7.06) and the Big Island (7.02) higher than Maui.

For the Maui survey, the smallest sample was from visitors from Japan (only 41, with 42 from China). The most completed Maui surveys came from visitors originating on the East Coast (616), followed by the West Coast (594), Canada (426), Europe (163), Korea (114) and Oceania (93).

Statewide, Japan ranked third in the number of visitors who completed the satisfaction survey, 1,147. West Coat visitors completed the most surveys, 1,921, followed by East Coast visitors, 1,784.

The tourism authority’s 2017 annual report shows that, for Japanese tourists, Maui and Kauai are not as popular as Oahu and the Big Island. In 2017, nearly all Japanese visitors (95.5 percent) went to Oahu, 11.9 percent went to the Big Island, 3.6 percent went to Maui and 1.7 percent went to Kauai.

The report noted that in 2017, air capacity from Japan increased 8.3 percent to 1,988,036 seats, including the launch of direct air service to Kona from Haneda and Narita airports. Japan ranked third in statewide visitor spending, visitor days and arrivals.

For West Coast visitors, Oahu attracted 42.6 percent; Maui 35.4 percent; the Big Island 18.5 percent; and Kauai 17.1 percent.

West Coast visitors make up Hawaii’s largest market in terms of visitor spending, visitor days and arrivals. In 2017, air capacity from the West Coast increased only 0.1 percent. Seats from the West Coast made up 59.9 percent of all air seats to the Hawaiian Islands.

A breakdown of household incomes from West Coast visitors showed that 14.2 percent earned $100,000 to $124,999 per year; 11.9 percent had annual income of more than $250,000; 11.8 percent earned $80,000 to $99,999 and 11.7 percent made $60,000 to $79,999.

Most West Coast visitors said they were either “very likely” (66.3 percent) and “somewhat likely” (20.6 percent) to return to Maui. The minority from the West Coast said they’d either be “somewhat unlikely” (5.7 percent) or “very unlikely” (5.9 percent) to return.

The study reported that geography plays a key role in the likelihood of a return visit, with those from the western region of the U.S. Mainland reporting the greatest likelihood of returning within five years, while European visitors were least likely. Also, more affluent tourists were more likely to return.

In the second quarter of this year, the top reason West Coast visitors gave for being unlikely to return to the state was that visiting Hawaii was “too expensive” (54 percent). That compared with 43.2 percent who said it was “too expensive” in the second quarter of 2017. Last year, the top reason for not returning was a “desire to visit other destinations” (46.8 percent). This year in the second quarter, that was the second most common reason for not returning (31.9 percent).

East Coast visitors said traveling to Hawaii was either too far or too expensive in the second quarter of this year and last.

First-time visitors and those from the East Coast, Europe, Canada and Korea were more likely to agree that their trips to Hawaii exceeded their expectations.

To see the full report, visit www.hawaiitourismauthority.org/research/visitor-satisfaction-and-activity/. Click on 2018 VSAT Report 2nd Quarter.

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