After two years of growth, Maui's visitor arrival and spending figures took a dip in January, according to statistics released Thursday by the Hawai'i Tourism Authority.
Compared with January 2013, the Valley Isle's visitor arrivals dropped 2.8 percent to 195,400 and spending fell 9.9 percent to $352.8 million, the visitor authority reported. Lanai's arrivals decreased 12.7 percent to 5,697, and spending there plummeted 6.8 percent to $7.4 million. On Molokai, arrivals were off 8 percent to 5,143, but spending on the Friendly Isle was $4.2 million, down 8.2 percent.
(Because of small figures, percentages for Molokai and Lanai can swing wildly.)
While Maui saw more visitors from Canada (up 3.5 percent), that was offset by declines from the U.S. West (down 3.7 percent) and the U.S. East (down 5.4 percent) - the island's top two visitor draws - and Japan (down 10.1 percent), the authority said.
After some "big growth," at times in double digits, for the last couple of years, Maui County is experiencing a "softening" in visitor demand, said Terryl Vencl, executive director of the Maui Visitors Bureau.
Also, with some extreme cold weather in parts of the country, people are spending some of their disposable income on heating, she said. And there's more aggressive competition from visitor destinations like Mexico and the Caribbean.
"There's competition out there that we're fighting against right now," Vencl said. "We're out doing some major market saturations in some of the areas."
The bureau's marketing efforts include trying to build demand for Maui County among prospective travelers to maintain incoming airline seats and to keep Maui as "top of mind for people looking to come visit," she said.
Overall, "Hawaii's tourism economy is starting to plateau after two years of record-breaking growth," said Mike McCartney, president and chief executive officer of the Hawai'i Tourism Authority. "Fluctuating currency exchange rates, growing competition and the increasing cost of a Hawaiian vacation were all factors contributing to the losses in visitor spending. We anticipate seeing this trend continue into the first and second quarters of 2014."
McCartney predicted that "this year will be challenging for our tourism industry with increased global competition and the volatility of the world economy.
"We cannot rest on our past success and must continue to work hard to sustain the recent growth we have experienced and maintain a strong tourism economy," he said.
Statewide, visitor arrivals were nearly flat with a 0.1 percent bump up to 682,634, but spending dropped 4.7 percent to $1.37 billion.
In January, the average visitor to Maui stayed 9.7 days, up 5.7 percent from 9.2 days in the same month last year. And, the average traveler to the Valley Isle spent $185.80, down 12.3 percent from 2013,, and for a trip the visitor shelled out an average of $1,805.70, off 7.3 percent from $1,948.70.
While available airline seats increased for Honolulu (up 5.5 percent) and Kona (up 3.7 percent), they declined for Kahului (down 2.3 percent), Lihue (down 2.8 percent) and Hilo (down 10.3 percent).
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* This article includes a correction from the original published on Feb. 28, 2014
* Tourism report. The Hawai'i Tourism Authority announced a revision to parts of its January visitor report that appeared Feb. 28 on Page A3.
Updates were made to "per person per day spending on each island," which led to changes for "per person per trip spending by island" and "total expenditures for each island."
In January, Maui visitor expenditures were $352.8 million, down 9.9 percent from the same month in 2013; Lanai, $7.4 million, down 6.8 percent; and Molokai, $4.2 million, down 8.2 percent.
The per person per day spending on Maui for the month was $185.80, down 12.3 percent from 2013, and per person per trip spending on Maui was $1,805.70, down 7.3 percent.