LIHUE — There may be fewer of them, but they’re staying longer and dishing out more.
Despite fewer arrivals, Kauai experienced the greatest growth in visitor spending statewide for the first four months of 2014.
According to a Hawaii Tourism Authority report, visitor expenditures on Kauai increased 8.5 percent over the four months to $117.3 million.
Despite a 2.2 percent decline in total arrivals to the islands, 354,777, the growth in overall spending is attributed to an increased amount of time visitors are actually staying on Kauai.
The average length of stay jumped 4.6 percent to 8.12 days. In addition, the amount of spending per person, per trip increased 5.3 percent to $1,423.
Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau, said the numbers reflected a positive trend she hopes will continue as more direct flights get ready to head to Lihue.
“We are looking forward to the arrival of Hawaiian Airlines’ new direct flights to Kauai from Oakland on June 15, and Los Angeles on June 27,” Kanoho said. “This will be Hawaiian Airlines first time providing Kauai with direct, non-stop service from the Mainland to Lihue Airport.”
The report showed that for Kauai, compared to April 2013, there was a 3 percent increase in visitors from the U.S. West, and a 6.4 percent increase from the U.S. East. Internationally, there was a 39.2 percent increase of visitors from Canada, but a 22.2 percent drop in visitors from Japan.
Daily average spending of $175 per person was unchanged from a year ago.
Kanoho added that Kauai-only numbers in the report also showed good news. Of the 88,233 April visitors statewide, a total of 50,288 stayed only on Kauai.
While several of Kauai’s numbers reflected growth, statewide spending during the same period dropped 2.9 percent to $4.9 billion. Arrivals statewide were down 2.6 percent to 2,720,760. HTA said the dips follow two record growth years, and it is anticipating a continued slowdown through the second quarter of 2014.
HTA officials said offering more direct flights domestically will help this summer, but the agency is also looking to tap into the Japanese market more.
“Strengthening our core markets like the U.S. and Japan also remain a priority,” said HTA President and CEO Mike McCartney. “Seasonal direct service from the West Coast to Kona and Lihue this summer will help to boost visitor arrivals (for) the region, and increase distribution across the state. The HTA is also working with the Hawaii Tourism Japan on promoting an Oahu concert with the popular J-Pop group, Arashi.”
The decline in arrivals is in part due to an 18.9 percent decrease in Hawaii’s cruise business. HTA is coordinating efforts to improve access at Hawaii’s harbors, and working to establish an integrated ship scheduling system to optimize use of dock space.
Steve and Jane Kurtz of Indiana saved up for years to take the Pride of America cruise around the islands and celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in Hawaii.
“This is our first trip to Hawaii and I have always wanted to come here,” Jane said. “The cruise is a good way to see all of the islands and then decide where to come back to next time.”
Dips in international visitor rates are in part attributed to various economic conditions and strengthening of the U.S. dollar against other currencies. As a result, the HTA is working to generate more interest in markets like Australia, New Zealand, China, Korea, Taiwan and Latin America, and issuing calls for representation in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.
“Developing these newer markets creates opportunities for attracting first-time, higher spending visitors to Hawaii,” McCartney said.
Kauai Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Randy Francisco said it is important to note that not all businesses are benefiting from the economic recovery.
“We have to remember that in order to sustain these visitor counts we need to continue the path of ensuring that visitors always have good value or better for their decision to select Kauai as their destination of choice,” Francisco said.