LIHUE — Ending on a high note.
Increased visitor spending and continued direct flights have the Hawaii Tourism Authority predicting a record visitor year.
The state tourism economy this year is on a pace slightly ahead of 2013, according to an HTA report. For the first 11 months, tourism has contributed $293 million, and $1.4 billion in state tax revenue — a 2.3 percent increase from 2013.
“We continue to focus our efforts on ensuring the long-term sustainability of one of the state’s largest economic drivers by distributing the benefits of tourism across the state,” HTA CEO Ronald Williams said in press release. “Throughout the year, the neighbor islands have seen growth in spending surpassing last year’s records.”
Kauai has been a part of the bustling business.
Through November, total expenditures on Kauai were up 6.6 percent to $1.3 billion. At the same time, Maui was up 11.9 percent to $3.7 billion, Molokai was up 10.2 percent to $29.9 million, and the Big Island was up 5.4 percent to $1.7 billion.
The average length of stay bumped up 1.3 percent to 7.68 days. A steady, 6.2 percent growth in per-person, per-day spending to $171 added to the total.
Kauai Visitors Bureau Executive Director Sue Kanoho said the November results are positive, and so is how the industry is finishing up for 2014 as it heads into the new year.
“What’s especially positive is how strong our visitor expenditures have remained in recent months considering the negative impact that three hurricanes, Iselle, Julio and Ana, in summer and fall, had on trips getting cut short and some cancellations,” Kanoho said. “Clearly, our visitors have a tremendous affinity for Kauai and our people, and are willing to spend more to enjoy all that our beautiful island has to offer.”
December is shaping up to be another successful month, she added. It is boosted with the television exposure from NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” episodes filmed on Kauai.
“We are entering 2015 on a high note and giving travelers nationwide a lot of incentive to think Kauai as they plan their next vacation,” she said.
That contributed to continual increases in visitor expenditures on Kauai during the first 11 months of the year, Williams said in the release. Even as visitor arrivals to the island slightly declined 1 percent year-to-date to 1 million, the airlift to Lihue increased 8.5 percent to 594,220 air seats.
“Arrivals and spending from our developing international markets also continue to grow as we work toward diversifying our tourism profile and increasing first-time arrivals to the Hawaiian Islands,” Williams added.
This helped to balance core markets like Japan, where economic uncertainty led to slight declines in visitor arrivals and decreases in length of stay. Without the balance the affect would be to decrease total expenditures and prevent year-end targets.
At the same time there was a boost in arrivals from core U.S. markets due to an influx of air seats.
“Maintaining the momentum and growth in visitor spending and arrivals is important for the state’s overall economy,” Williams said. “We will continue to work collaboratively with our industry partners and global contractors to ensure that our tourism economy continues to thrive in 2015.”
Randy Francisco, President and CEO, Kauai Chamber of Commerce, said the county’s specific marketing objective for the past few years has been about sustaining growth as a Hawaiian Island destination. The Kauai Visitors Bureau and partners are focused on projecting the island as a place to relax, rejuvenate and reconnect.
“In doing so, they have continued to pave the way for not only sustainable and strategic growth but, also ensuring that there is a diversity of experiences for visitors,” Francisco said.
This growth has given Hawaiian Airlines the confidence in long-term viability to renew seasonal flights from May to September. Visitors and resident take advantage of the direct service.
The chamber community benefits in terms of jobs, the growth of new, small businesses and the continued economic recovery. Tourism is tied to retail, agriculture, food service and manufacturing, he said.
“The farmers markets are a great example of how new, as well as repeat visitors contribute, to keeping farmers in business and maintaining the way of life we’re accustomed to, including our rural landscapes,” he added.