Tourism reaching new heights on Kauai

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Richie Ogata of Bamboo Grill at the Anchor Cove Shopping Center, top right, stops to chat with Sarah Beth Kersey, Angel Jarvis and Eloise Garvis of Georgia Thursday while Sarah enjoys pancakes that Eloise said are “kind of like the kind I used to make.”

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Mike, Autumn and Avery Connot of California get an explanation of June being Adopt-a-Cat Month using pineapple by Crazy Shirt associate Megan Macadangdang at the Anchor Cove shop.

LIHUE — Despite a flooding disaster in April that devastated much of Kauai’s North Shore, tourists kept coming.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority reported Thursday that visitors spent $173.9 million in May on Kauai, up 13.3 percent from May 2017. For the first five months of 2018, visitors spent $846.9 million on Kauai, an increase of 8.4 percent over the same time frame last year.

The number of visitors to Kauai rose to 113,014 in May, an increase of 7.8 percent from May 2017, the highest increase of all the Hawaiian Islands, said HTA. Through May, Kauai had 562,891 visitors, up 12.1 percent from the first five months of 2017.

Overall, visitors to the Hawaiian Islands spent $1.4 billion in May, an increase of 11 percent compared to last year, according to preliminary statistics released by HTA.

“May was the fourth straight month that Hawaii’s tourism industry realized double-digit increases in air seat capacity and visitor spending, two key categories that are interrelated and vital to the state’s economic health,” said HTA President and CEO George D. Szigeti.

Trans-Pacific air seats serving Hawaii increased in May by 12.6 percent to nearly 1.1 million seats.

“The growth in both categories is especially noteworthy as May has historically been an off-peak shoulder month for travel to the Hawaiian Islands,” Szigeti said. “It’s encouraging to know that both air carriers and travel consumers expressed such confidence in Hawaii as a travel destination during May.”

Among Hawaii’s four largest visitor markets, the U.S. West (plus 9.8 percent to $525.8 million), U.S. East (plus 13.4 percent to $397.8 million) and Japan (plus 1.2 percent to $170.8 million), all reported gains in visitor spending in May, while the Canada market was down slightly (minus 0.8 percent to $45.7 million) compared to a year ago.

Total visitor arrivals increased 7 percent to 804,135 visitors in May year-over-year, comprised of arrivals by air (plus 8 percent to 796,178 visitors) and cruise ships (down 42.9 percent to 7,957 visitors). Total visitor days rose 6.4 percent.

Visitor spending grew for all four larger Hawaiian Islands in May compared to last year, with increases reported for Oahu (plus 11.4 percent to $669.6 million), Maui (plus 3.7 percent to $403.1 million), and the island of Hawaii (plus 3.3 percent to $173.9 million).

The island of Hawaii realized growth in visitor spending despite a drop in visitor arrivals (minus 1.6 percent) in May year-over-year. In response to the Kilauea volcano eruption, the Hawaii home-ported cruise ship canceled port calls to Hilo and Kona during three voyages in May. This loss of nearly 6,600 visitors contributed to the overall decrease in visitors to the island of Hawaii in May.

The increases in May’s air seat capacity from the U.S. West and U.S. East markets, at 15.6 percent and 14 percent, respectively, were instrumental to the growth in visitor spending for each county.

“State tax revenue generated by tourism continued to maintain an exceptional pace through May, increasing by 10.9 percent to $894.6 million thus far in 2018, which is $87.7 million more than was produced over the same period in 2017,” Szigeti said.


Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or

  1. Joe Celona June 29, 2018 6:28 am Reply

    Our entire economic system requires growth to function, and without growth, tends to fall on its face. While some are strongly predisposed to believe growth is always good, and the more the better, if anywhere near these visitor growth rates continue on Kauai, it will not be sustainable and visitor problems will worsen. This is not something you’ll ever hear from the Hawaii Tourism Authority. It is my opinion the government and people of Kauai should consciously decide the visitor capacity of Kauai and manage to that number. Given we’re an island only accessible by plane, this isn’t hard to do; every visitor arrives and departs from our Lihue airport.

    So what is our visitor capacity? How many visitors can Kauai host on any given day? Unsurprisingly more is not always better.

    -Joe Celona

  2. andy June 29, 2018 12:44 pm Reply

    Whenever I see another article about increasing tourism I think one thing: BUMMER!

  3. numilalocal June 29, 2018 5:54 pm Reply

    Capitalism’s Achilles’ Heel is the concept of infinite growth. We are in a finite system in every regard. HTA/KVB: how much is enough?

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