Kaua‘i July arrivals down by 22.6 %

Kaua‘i posted the second consecutive month of double-digit declines in visitor arrivals, according to statistics released yesterday by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

July arrivals dropped 22.6 percent over the same month last year to 100,140. June 2008 arrivals to Kaua‘i were also down substantially, with 23.5 percent fewer visitors than in 2007. Not since Hurricane ‘Iniki has the island seen such declines.

Other indicators of the visitor industry’s health — visitor days and expenditures — also posted double-digit losses of 11.7 and 17.8 percent, respectively.

All together, the numbers show fewer visitors taking vacations, and those who do make the trip are not staying as long as they did last year or spending as much money while they’re here.

Maui and Big Island saw similar 20-plus percent drops in July, while the state as a whole reported 14.1 percent fewer visitors.

Marsha Wienert, state tourism liaison, said that during the spring Hawai‘i’s visitor market managed to weather the softness experienced by other travel destinations. But the loss of a second Norwegian Cruise Line ship as well as higher oil prices have been leaving their mark of late.

On Kaua‘i, the NCL losses have been acute. Seventy to 80 percent of Kaua‘i’s decrease in arrivals over the last two month are attributable to the loss of cruise visitors.

The dissolution of Aloha and ATA airlines are also a major factor, says Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau, because they offered a different customer who was seeking a lower price point.

Kanoho said some relief is in store when international-flagged cruise ships return to Kaua‘i next month. In addition, the Hawai‘i Visitors Convention Bureau is working with Hawai‘i Tourism Authority to secure short-term funding to encourage fall travel.

Yesterday Gov. Linda Lingle met with 25 Hawai‘i hotel owners and operators to discuss collaborative efforts to get Hawai‘i’s tourism industry back on track.

Lingle says a major focus of the meeting was the need to spend more on marketing.

To that end, Lingle and the hoteliers want the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority to allocate an additional $10 million for marketing the islands.

Lingle says she is planning a trip to Asia in November to promote Hawai‘i’s visitor industry.

On the bright side, Wienert noted yesterday that there have been pockets of growth, including “exceptional” double-digit increases in expenditures and visitor days from the Canada, Oceania and other asia markets.

“Even with the current challenges, our visitor industry is resilient and there is great potential in developing visitor markets,” she said. “With the easing of travel restrictions for Korean and Chinese visitors, there are tremendous possibilities from these countries and we anticipate a doubling of arrivals and spending from the Other Asia market within the next few years.”

• Associated Press contributed to this report.

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