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As arrivals continue to rise, visitors spend more per trip

Lanai, Maui see highest spending totals per visitor in the state

Shimmering in the heat rising off the Kahului Airport runway, a Southwest Airlines jet takes off Thursday morning. Maui’s visitor numbers in March still trail pre-pandemic levels but people are spending more money per trip on the Valley Isle, according to a recent report. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Though Maui’s visitor numbers in March still trail pre-pandemic levels, people are spending more money per trip on the Valley Isle, according to a recent report.

Yielding the second-highest visitor rates behind Oahu, Maui hosted 239,538 visitors in March compared to the 271,934 visitors that same month in 2019, according to preliminary visitor statistics released Thursday by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. Oahu still led the state at 404,274 arrivals, but remained about 22 percent lower from 2019, when data showed that the island hosted 523,904 visitors.

People seem to be spending more time and money on Maui, though, with the average length of stay at about eight days — similar to pre-pandemic levels — and spending a total of $458.8 million in March compared to $443.3 million in 2019.

An average of $1,915.40 (a 17.5 percent increase from March 2019) was invested per person per trip in March on Maui, which is the second highest in the state behind Lanai, where the average visitor spent $2,248.10 per trip that same month (a 72.2 increase), even though the average length of stay on the island was the lowest statewide at about four days.

Oahu had the third-highest average spent per person per trip at $1,664.30, which is about a 30 percent increase from March 2019.

“The demand for quality lodging, food and beverage, activities, retail and services will provide the momentum necessary for the state’s economic recovery to happen quicker than predicted,” DBEDT Director Mike McCartney said in a news release. “COVID-19 continues to exist within our neighborhoods and globally, so as a community we must continue with safe health practices and constant awareness of how quickly the virus can spread.”

Comparable visitor spending and arrival statistics for March 2020 – when travel shut down across the state – were not available in the report, though the department noted that prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic and Hawaii quarantine requirements for travelers, the state hit record-level visitor numbers in 2019 through February 2020.

In March of this year, a total of 788,931 visitors came to Hawaii, with 785,715 visitors arriving by air. In comparison, 928,849 visitors arrived by air and by cruise ships in March 2019.

As a state, total spending by visitors who came to Hawaii in March was $1.53 billion, which was higher than the $1.49 billion reported for March 2019.

Looking at Maui specifically through the first quarter of 2022, there were 616,048 visitors, or 15 percent less compared to the 726,959 visitors in the first quarter of 2019. For the first quarter of 2022, total visitor spending was $1.29 billion, down slightly compared to the $1.33 billion in the first quarter of 2019.

McCartney said that international travelers may have contributed to the increase in visitor arrivals, with Canadian visitors at the highest arrival levels since March 2020.

In March of this year, 54,475 visitors arrived in Hawaii from Canada, making a slight recovery from the 76,913 visitors in March 2019. Visitors from Canada spent $116.1 million in March, compared to $139.8 million in 2019. Daily spending by Canadian visitors rose in March ($173 per person) compared to March 2019 ($158 per person).

There were 4,038 visitors from Japan to Hawaii in March compared to 133,858 visitors in March 2019. Visitors from Japan spent $11.8 million in March of this year compared to $185.2 million in March 2019. Daily spending by Japanese visitors in March ($224 per person) also decreased compared to March 2019 ($238 per person).

“Slight percentage increase of Japanese visitors continues to build with the resumption of Japan tour packages to our state,” McCartney said.

However, inflation continues to grow and the war in Ukraine is ongoing, which affects energy prices and household expenses, he noted.

Through the first quarter of 2022, total visitor spending in Hawaii was $4.23 billion, a decrease of 5.8 percent from the first quarter of 2019 at $4.49 billion. A total of 1,993,761 visitors arrived in the first quarter of 2022, which was a 21 percent decrease from the first quarter of 2019 at 2,527,277 visitors.

“We will watch how this impacts the visitor industry and our economy; however, we are hopeful as we are still seeing a positive upswing due to domestic travel and the return of international visitors,” McCartney said.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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