Maui tourism showing some weakness

January reports show declines

Two tourism reports for January indicate a softening of the Maui market with visitor spending down nearly 14 percent from last January and hotel revenue and average daily rates off across the board.

The declines come on the heels of seven straight record-breaking years in visitor spending and four-straight years of record numbers of visitor arrivals by air for the island’s main economic driver. Much of the spending gains in 2018 were driven by double-digit year-over-year increases in the first half of the year with growth tapering down to less than 2 percent in the second half of the year. December visitor spending was 6.8 percent less than 2017.

Two Hawaii economic reports in the last couple of weeks offered some warnings as well.

On Wednesday, the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism kept its 2019 forecast for economic growth for the state at 1.2 percent. The agency did lower its projection for visitor spending, reducing the growth from 4.2 percent in its previous forecast to 3.3 percent.

The University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization or UHERO said that while annual visitor numbers reached a new record in 2018 statewide, “the health of the industry has become more tenuous.”

“Given U.S. and global conditions, we expect only modest growth in 2019 and slowing thereafter,” UHERO said in its state forecast update titled “Economy slows markedly. Is more in store? “ released Friday.

The report acknowledged the potential boost in travel from the entry of Southwest Airlines into the Hawaii market but said that “downside risks are clearer, centered on the possibility of further deterioration in the U.S. and global economies.”

Maui visitor spending fell 13.8 percent in January compared to the same month last year to $472.6 million — this despite an increase in visitor arrivals of 1.2 percent to 233,320 in the month, the Hawaii Tourism Authority report released last week showed.

There was no growth in total visitor days in January. Average daily spending fell 13.8 percent to $218 per person and individual spending dropped 14.8 percent by more than $300 to $2,026.

Visitor arrivals increased by 1.7 percent from Maui’s top market, the U.S. West, but the island saw decreases from Japan, down 6.7 percent; Canada, down 2.4 percent; and Maui’s second largest market, the U.S. East, down 0.8 percent.

The average daily number of visitors on Maui in January was 69,800, virtually unchanged from a year ago, the report said.

The visitor industry statewide showed similar trends with arrivals up 3 percent in January to 820,621, but spending down 3.8 percent to $1.62 billion.

Molokai bucked the trend in January, showing a slight spending increase of 1.8 percent to $2.85 million. Arrivals grew 8.7 percent to 5,699 visitors.

Lanai showed a slight increase in visitors, up 1.8 percent to 6,351 in January but spending fell 18.2 percent to $9.2 million.

Another HTA report released last week measuring hotel performance showed declines for Maui County properties in January as well. Revenue per room decreased 5.5 percent to $327, which still was a statewide best. Average daily rates dipped 0.4 percent to $434 and occupancy fell 4.1 percentage points to 75.3 percent.

Even the normally reliable Wailea region, usually the top revenue per room and room rates in the state, logged declines in January. While still leading all other regions statewide in room revenue, $531.34, and room rates, $632.38, those totals for the South Maui resort were off 7 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively. Occupancy also was down 2.3 percentage points to 84 percent.

Maui’s other major resort area, Lahaina/Kaanapali/Kapalua, also experienced some declines in January. Room revenues fell 3.3 percent to $274.62, but room rates increased 3.8 percent to $371. Occupancy rates fell 5.4 percentage points to 74 percent.

Other Maui County hotels logged declines in revenue of 7.3 percent to $393.97, in room rates of 4.5 percent to $511.81 and in occupancy, down 2.4 percentage points to 77 percent in January.

The hotel performance report is produced by STR using hotel survey data. For January, the survey included 90 percent of all lodging properties with 20 or more rooms or 164 properties statewide.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com