Visitors eye Kauai

Good news for Kauai’s economy: more tourists are visiting the island, and they are spending more, too.

That’s according to preliminary figures from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, which show that for the first three months of the year, the number of visitor arrivals to the island was up 7 percent compared to the same time period in 2014.

That improvement means Kauai led the other islands in terms of visitor growth. Maui saw a 6.1 percent increase and there was a 3.1 percent increase in visitors to Hawaii Island; Oahu saw an increase of 1.6 percent.

But some local businesses don’t need a spreadsheet of figures to know things are improving.

“Business has been better than last year – very good start to the year,” said Casey Riemer, general manager Jack Harter Helicopters, the company that’s been offering tours of the island since 1962. “I hope that it continues.”

The most recent numbers available show that 100,651 people visited Kauai in March of 2015. That is over 8,000 more people than in March of 2014.

Spending is up, too. Total visitor expenditures rose 8.1 percent, meaning Kauai out-performed the other islands in that category as well.

The average amount spent on the island in March 2015 was $183 per visitor, per day. That compares to $164 spent per visitor per day in March 2014.

In total, visitor spending in March was $137.6 million, compared to $118.1 million last year.

Riemer attributed positive word-of-mouth to the increase in tourism in Kauai.

“My sense is that when you make people happy, they tell others about it,” Riemer said.

He also credited good work by the Kauai Visitors Bureau in promoting the island.

KVB Executive Director Sue Kanoho didn’t take credit for the increased numbers. But she did say that the island has benefited from recent exposure such as being featured on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” and serving as backdrop for Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition. She anticipates even more attention when the movie “Jurassic World” comes out in June.

“What these numbers show is that we are starting to get back to peak-performance rates,” Kanoho said. “We’re getting back to strong pricing and a healthy market for the spring season.”

Kanoho said she didn’t believe that recent volcanic activity on the Big Island would draw a significant number of tourists away from Kauai.

“We might see more people taking day trips if the lava lake stays high, but I’m not concerned,” she added.

A total of 284,367 people visited Kauai during the first three months of the year, which is almost a full 20,000 more than the same period in 2014.

Overall, Hawaii’s tourism industry had one of its best years last year, and the state is on track to possibly set a record this year.

“Kauai is the Hawaii of old,” Kanoho said. “The thing that people love about Kauai is that it is exotic and they can experience nature. Kauai is remote but still convenient.”


Ryan Kazmirzack, government reporter, can be reached at 245-0428.


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