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Destination: Kauai

LIHUE — Visitor numbers are up for the third consecutive year as a rebounding fourth quarter maintains growth for Kauai and the state.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority reported a record 8.3 million visitors came to the Aloha State in 2014, a 1.3 percent increase, with visitor expenditures up 3.3 percent to $14.75 billion. As for Kauai, arrivals were nearly even with 2013, with increases in spending, one-day visits and more visitors from emerging markets.

“By increasing visitor arrivals and spending to the majority of the Hawaiian Islands we have been able to grow the benefits of tourism statewide, reinforcing our efforts to diversify Hawaii’s tourism economy by distributing visitors across the state,” said Hawaii Tourism Authority CEO Ronald Williams.

Kauai visitor arrivals were down just 0.1 percent to 1.1 million in 2014, but with air lift to Lihue increasing 9 percent with 654,176 seats. The average length of stay was up 0.9 percent to 7.71 days, while per-person, per-day spending was up 4.5 percent to $170.7, and per-person, per-trip spending up 5.5 percent to $1,316.

The resulting increase in total expenditures was up 5.4 percent to $1.5 billion for the year on Kauai. Sue Kanoho, executive director for Kauai Visitors Bureau, said she is happy to see that.

“The Hawaii Tourism Authority’s initiative to share the wealth of international markets clearly made headway for Kauai with a 25 percent increase in international arrivals to 28,230,” Kanoho said.

Kauai saw a 10 percent in arrivals for December with 100,955, but daily spending dropped 10.4 percent to $161 per-person. Visitor expenditures also declined 4.7 percent to $130.4 million. A 24.8 percent increase in day trip visitors — those who stayed one day or less — brought the average length of stay on Kauai down 3.5 percent to 8.04 days.

International visitors to the state increased from the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Germany, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and China arrivals jumped 29.1 percent to 161,375. Visitor numbers showed a decrease from Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Brazil and Argentina.

Statewide, Japan remains the state’s largest international market but continues to slow with visitor arrivals down slightly which does affect total visitor expenditures. HTA attributes the slowdown to a weakened yen and economic instability.

Other highlights:

w International visitors coming to Kauai in December were up 24.3 percent to 15,871. It was up 0.8 percent for the year to 127,532.

w Kauai-only international visitors in December were down 12.6 percent to 3,464, but were up 25 percent for the year at 28,230.

w Kauai one-day or less international visitors in December were up 47.6 percent to 5,119. They were down 4.5 percent to 42,172 for the year.

w Visitors to Kauai from Canada were up 1.2 percent to 9,737 for December. It was up 11.4 percent to 77,411 for the year.

w Kauai-only visitors from Canada were up 0.6 percent to 4,971 for December, and up 18.1 percent to 37,438 for the year. Kauai one-day or less visitors were down 3.4 percent to 797 for December, but was up 5.9 percent to 7,910 for the year.

w Visitors to Kauai from Japan fell 2.8 percent to 2,763 in December. It was down 19 percent to 23,845 for the year.

w Kauai-only visitors from Japan fell 30.4 percent to 116 for December, and was down 35.9 percent to 2,175 for the year. Kauai one-day or less visitors were up 54.5 percent to 1,912 for December, but was down 12.6 percent to 15,730 for the year.

w The Lihue non-stop markets saw Denver with a 275 percent December increase to 2,730. It had a 14.3 percent increase for the year at 10,738.

HTA reported that a core North America market increase in second half of the year was supported by lower increased seat inventory. More options for connectivity resulted in lower airfares due to increased competition in the market.

“As oil prices remain low, airlines continue to improve their operational costs, which we anticipate will lead to continued growth in air seats and arrivals from North America through the first half of this year,” Williams said.

Cruise ship visitors to Kauai were down 11.4 percent to 21,226 in December, and down 7.4 percent to 221,515 for the year.

Kauai Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Randy Francisco said the continued rise in visitors demonstrates the economic momentum that is taking place in key markets in the U.S. He said the strong December performance positions the economy for 2015.

Stronger visitor numbers will increase Transit Accommodations Tax collections, he added.

“Hopefully, these numbers will remain on pace and continue to demonstrate to the legislature that even though the Neighbor Islands contribute a smaller percentage of taxes and economic and workforce development, everyone is doing their part,” Francisco said. “For the chamber, I look forward to improved tax collections and enforcement so that everyone will indeed pay their fair share without impacting social justice programs.”

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