Kaua’i sees greatest gain in state in January arrivals

That gusty tradewind you may have just felt could have been Sue Kanoho breathing a full sigh of relief.

The executive director of the Kaua’i Visitors Bureau, who just a few days ago was hard at work greeting passengers on the first daily US Airways nonstop flight from Phoenix to Lihu’e, was pleasantly surprised by the January arrival figures for the island.

“Very good,” she said of the January arrival figures.

That might be a bit of understatement.

The 90,519 arrivals marked the best January in at least five years, and probably more, and the 14.6-percent increase in arrivals compared to the January 2005 total was the greatest increase among the counties.

O’ahu, in fact, saw fewer visitors in January of this year compared to the same period last year.

“Traditionally, January can be a challenge. It can be a shoulder season,” or a month where the visitor arrivals take a dip compared to other months, she said.

The Kaua’i January figures, she said, were a “nice surprise.”

As the arrival figure was up by double digits in January on Kaua’i, so was visitor spending, to $108.5 million, up 17.4 percent compared to the same month in 2005, state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism preliminary statistics show.

“We are especially pleased with the increase in daily and total expenditures by our visitors,” said Marsha Wienert, state tourism liaison.

“We are very optimistic that this trend will continue throughout the year,” she said in a press release.

“The continued record increase in visitor arrivals from the domestic market has been phenomenal,” said Wienert.

“The cruise-industry growth is adding to the diversity of our visitor market,” Wienert added.

Both Kanoho and Wienert pointed to substantial growth in the number of visitors arriving on cruise ships, with Nawiliwili seeing 33,299 cruise-ship passengers in January, up 62.7 percent from 20,468 in January 2005.

The growth is attributed in part to the twice-a-week arrival of Norwegian Cruise Line ships (a third comes next month).

Kanoho noted that Princess Cruises ships will be calling on Nawiliwili 15 times this summer, and steps are being taken to improve cruise ship visitors’ experience there.

Regarding visitors arriving by air, Kaua’i saw double-digit increases in both U.S. West (from west of the Rocky Mountains) and U.S. East (from east of the Rockies) both in overall arrivals, and in Kaua’i-only arrivals, or those visitors who chose to stay only on Kaua’i in January.

“Domestic has been very strong,” as have been numbers of Canadian visitors, something Kanoho admitted she was concerned about toward the end of last year, before three straight months of increases.

Numbers of Japanese visitors were down on Kaua’i in January, a continuing trend that is much more damaging on O’ahu than it is on Kaua’i.

In terms of total visitor arrivals to Kaua’i by air, more than 41 percent of them chose to stay only on Kaua’i, and in January all visitors stayed an average of 10.26 days in the state, the DBEDT figures show.

Of the domestic visitors to Kaua’i in January, over 44 percent chose to stay only on this island. Of the U.S. West visitors to Kaua’i in January (the February figures won’t come out until the end of this month), nearly 60 percent chose to stay only on Kaua’i.

The 7,209 Canadian visitors to Kaua’i in January was up 71.3 percent compared to the same month in 2005.

Statewide, 595,753 visitors arrived by air in January, an increase of 3.9 percent from 573,480 in January of last year, DBEDT figures showed.

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