Travelers staying longer to joy of Kaua’i visitor industry

Prior to a reporter’s call Margy Parker, executive director of the Poipu Beach Resort Association, hadn’t seen state figures indicating significant jumps in Kaua’i visitors’ lengths of stay.

The figures, from the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, showed that domestic visitors last month stayed on Kaua’i an average of 7.33 days, up 14.9 percent compared to September 2001.

“Wow. That’s fantastic,” said Parker. “That’s great.”

A lot of effort has gone into letting visitors know about the many activities available on Kaua’i, and that effort appears to be paying off with longer stays, she said.

“It’s been a goal of the Kaua’i Visitors Bureau, as well as of our resort association, and I’m sure it’s been goals of private vendors as well, to let the public out there know that there’s a lot more to do on Kaua’i than they thought,” said Parker.

Statistics since the mid-1980s have shown that increases in numbers of nonstop flights to the Neighbor Islands from the Mainland have meant longer stays for those coming on those nonstop flights, she added.

“Perhaps, the steady increase in direct flights is contributing somewhat to that longer length of stay. Because, last September (2001), we didn’t have the American Airlines flight,” she said of the daily nonstop flight between Lihu’e and Los Angeles.

“In addition to that, United was running two LA nonstops a day, for the last half of August and first half of September. So now, when you compare September ’02 against September ’01, we had two more daily direct flights for at least half the month, and one more daily direct for the remainder of the month,” she said.

“So, I believe that that is also supportive of an increased length of stay.”

Sue Kanoho, executive director of the KVB, said the lengthened stay is due directly to visitors liking the islands and destination, and having more things to see and do.

The KVB’s goal, encouraged by its funding agency, the Hawaii Tourism Authority, has been to increase visitor length of stay and expenditures, and the bureau has been successful in part due to specific marketing toward higher-income potential visitors, Kanoho said.

A University of Hawai’i study that looked at economic impacts of direct flights to the Neighbor Islands in the 1980s concluded that while visitor counts did not necessarily increase as a result of those nonstop flights, visitor lengths of stay did increase dramatically.

Kaua’i greeted 75,329 people last month, an increase of 18.7 percent when compared to terrorism-influenced results of September 2001. Domestic arrivals were 65,807, up 17 percent, and international arrivals were 9,522, up 32.3 percent.

International length of stay was down 5.1 percent, to 3.04 days on average.

For the first nine months of this year, the island greeted 758,561 visitors, down 4.5 percent compared to the same period last year. Domestic arrivals numbered 647,927, off just 0.6 percent from the same period last year, while international arrivals were 110,634, off 22.6 percent compared to the same period in 2001.

Also for the first nine months this year, domestic length of stay was up 2.6 percent, to an average of 6.83 days, compared to the same period last year, while international length of stay was also up, 9.7 percent, to 4.07 days, compared to the same period in 2001.

Visitors from the western United States stayed on Kaua’i even longer than other domestic visitors last month, 8.53 days on average.

Total visitors by air to Kaua’i for the first nine months were off 4.5 percent compared to the same period last year, though the number of Kaua’i-only visitors for the first three quarters, 277,284, was up 0.3 percent compared to the same period in 2001.

Numbers of Canadian visitors were up last month, and up for the first nine months in both Kaua’i and Kaua’i-only categories, compared to the same periods last year.

Nawiliwili Harbor welcomed 22,115 cruise-ship passengers last month, an increase of 103 percent over September 2001.

Statewide, the 4,447,788 total visitor days last month marked the second-best September on record, with the number of domestic visitor days marking a record-breaking high.

“The record level of domestic visitor days leading to the second highest September for total visitor days make it clear that we are beyond September 11th and are seeing solid growth in our domestic market and overall improvement in tourism,” said Dr. Seiji Naya, DBEDT director.

“Given the depth of the problems we faced in September 2001, the tremendous rates of growth this September were expected, but the breaking of records was a pleasant surprise,” he said.

Statewide, domestic visitors stayed an average of 11.33 days in Hawai’i last month.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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