LIHUE — If the lines in grocery stores and gas stations seemed longer in 2017, it’s because there were more people on the island than the year before.
A lot more.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority said Wednesday that the visitor industry set new record totals statewide in 2017, and businesses on Kauai are feeling it.
“I think there was (an increase in visitors),” said Tom Iannucci, owner of Pietro’s Pizza Kauai in the Harbor Mall. “I get a good mix of visitors and locals here, and I’m always asking where they’re from. Most people right now are snowbirds from Canada or the North.”
Total visitor numbers via air travel for Kauai saw a 7.5 percent increase to 1.3 million in 2017 from 1.2 million in 2016, according to HTA ,and that’s not the only growth the island saw.
Visitor spending increased 9.6 percent to $1.8 billion in 2017 from $1.6 billion in 2016. December alone had a 9.5 percent change from $152 million in total expenditures to $168 million in 2017.
In fact, the only dip in HTA’s six primary data categories for Kauai’s 2017 Tourism Industry statistics was in average length of stay when it comes to those arriving by air — a decline from 7.6 days in 2016 to 7.5 days in 2017.
Visitor arrivals by cruise ships went up by 12.2 percent from 112,475 in 2016 to 126,225 visitors to Hawaii. In 2017, 69 out-of-state cruise ships brought visitors compared to the 57 cruise ships that frequented Hawaii last year.
There are a lot of factors that contribute to the growth, and Sue Kanoho, executive director of Kauai Visitors Bureau, said upgrades to properties and additions of new businesses have helped.
“New restaurants (and) food options that have kept Kauai as one of the desirable destinations to visit,” Kanoho said. “Social media has certainly contributed to expanding the reach of Kauai as a visitor destination.”
And all of that benefits the island in many ways, she said.
“The island benefits from the taxes generated, jobs provided, as well as the ‘give-back’ the visitor industry commits each year via Charity Walk, fundraisers and special events,” Kanoho said. “The visitor arrivals and visitor expenditures provide one of the top economic engines that drive the island.”
Pietro’s Pizza Kauai’s location is closer to arrival points, like Nawiliwili Harbor, than places like Lihue’s health food store Vim and Vigor, on Rice Street, but even businesses with a traditionally local clientele are experiencing steady streams of customers.
“A lot of our business is the local lunch rush crowd,” said Kyle Mahoney, employee at Vim and Vigor. “It seems about the same as it’s been.”
Mark Perriello, president of Kauai’s Chamber of Commerce, confirmed many island businesses are booming as Kauai visitors are spending more, but he cautioned the sword could be double-edged.
“There is certainly an economic upside to the visitor industry’s success in 2017. However, there are challenges to our aging infrastructure, there is overcrowding at popular destinations, and many businesses are struggling to keep pace with the increasing demand for their products or services,” Perriello said.
He continued: “As we approach or surpass the capacity to reasonably accommodate our increasing visitor counts, we must find and recruit new industries and businesses to the island in order to continue to improve the quality of life for all our residents.”
Iannucci said he thinks the boost in tourism is due to a combination of international happenings and a harsh winter in the northern parts of America.
“The international issues, like the bombings in Germany and London and Paris, it makes people want to stay in the United States,” he said. “We have the exoticness of world travel and the safety of staying in the country.”
State welcomes 9.4.M guests
HONOLULU – For the sixth consecutive year, Hawaii’s tourism industry in 2017 achieved new annual record totals in five key categories, visitor spending, generated tax revenue, visitor arrivals,trans-Pacific air seats serving Hawaii and jobs supported statewide, according to preliminary year-end statistics released Wednesday by the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
“Our message to global travelers continues to be that Hawaii is the safest, cleanest and most welcoming destination in the world,” said George D. Szigeti, HTA president and CEO.
• A total of 9.4 million visitors came to Hawaii in 2017, surpassing the 2016 record of 8.9 million visitors by 5 percent.
• On average, there were 230,113 visitors in the Hawaiian Islands on any given day in 2017, up 5 percent versus 2016.
• Visitors to the Hawaiian Islands spent $16.8 billion in 2017, an increase of 6.2 percent from the previous record in 2016.
• Spending by visitors generated a record $1.9 billion in state tax revenue in 2017, an increase of $114.8 million over 2016.
• All four larger Hawaiian Islands realized growth in visitor spending, visitor days and arrivals in 2017 compared to last year.
• A record 204,000 jobs statewide were supported by Hawaii’s tourism industry in 2017, an increase of 5.2 percent over 2016.