Maui County's visitor arrivals by air grew to nearly 198,000 in February, a 5.3 percent increase compared with the same month last year, according to figures released Thursday by the Hawai'i Tourism Authority.
Maui's arrivals trailed the overall state increase in air arrivals, which climbed to 675,517, a 7.8 percent jump for the month. Maui's major island competitors fared better as well in terms of percentage increases in February: Kauai, 9.5 percent to 90,082; the Big Island, 8.2 percent to 130,664; and Oahu, 7.9 percent to 396,084.
Lanai posted an increase of 3.2 percent for the month to 6,295, while Molokai was the only island statewide to lose ground, a drop of 9.7 percent to 4,259 visitor arrivals in February. (Because of small numbers of visitors for Molokai and Lanai, percentage increases or decreases can be magnified for those islands.)
Visitors crowd into a shaded shopping area off Front Street in Lahaina on Thursday. Maui County welcomed 5.3 percent more visitors in February than in the same month a year earlier, according to statistics released Thursday by the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority. An increase in visitors from Canada and Japan offset a decline in tourists from the U.S. East, tourism officials said.
The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo
February visitor expenditures on Maui were nearly on par with the state overall. Valley Isle visitors spent $339.6 million in the month, a 9.4 percent increase, while visitor spending statewide was up 9.9 percent to $1.22 billion. Spending on Molokai went up 12.5 percent to 3 million, while tourist expenditures on Lanai dropped 21.8 percent to $7.1 million.
The Big Island saw a 12 percent increase in spending to $163.2 million. Oahu's spending rose 10.9 percent to $584.3 million, and spending on Kauai grew by 4.2 percent to $120.4 million.
Lanai led the state in per-person daily spending with $339, although that was an 8.9 percent decrease from February of last year. Oahu ranked second in the category with $212 while Maui was third at $205.50, a 7.1 percent growth. Molokai was last among the islands in daily individual visitor spending at $134. Statewide, the average visitor spent $197.60 per day in February.
"Hawaii's tourism industry continues to maintain positive momentum," said Mike McCartney, Hawai'i Tourism Authority president and chief executive officer. He noted that the state generated $2.66 billion in visitor expenditures in the first two months of the year, an addition of $188 million compared with the same period last year.
Maui's visitor industry has been helped by new nonstop air service from Bellingham, Wash., which was launched in November, he said. The new service contributed to Maui's increase in U.S. West visitors, up 7.4 percent to 78,857.
Increases in visitor arrivals to Maui from Canada (up 7.3 percent to 33,602) and Japan (up 21.3 percent to 7,197) offset a 5 percent decline from the U.S. East to 53,361, McCartney said.
"We continue to focus on enhancing visitor distribution and economic growth across the state, especially during the slower shoulder periods, in order to maintain balance between resident and visitor needs," he said. "Through working with our industry partners, we have been able to grow visitor expenditures and arrivals on all of the Hawaiian Islands, with significant increases on the Neighbor Islands."
McCartney also noted that, "despite being a traditionally slower travel season, Maui is ramping up a busy spring with a full lineup of festivals and events."
Those include Hawaiian music during the fifth annual Maui Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival and Maui Classical Music Festival, which are both events sponsored by the tourism authority as part of an initiative "to highlight and perpetuate our islands' rich culture," he said.
* Brian Perry can be reached at email@example.com.