8.31.2008

22% Dop in Visitors to County in July

(Reprinted from the Maui News August 28, 2008)

Maui County just barely topped 200,000 visitors in July - a drop of 22 percent from July 2008.
The other Neighbor Islands did as poorly, although Oahu's head count dropped only about half as fast. It was down 12.2 percent to 390,362.

Spending also dropped. Maui island totaled $233.8 million, down 27.4 percent, according to the monthly report by the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.
The multiple negatives affecting the visitor industry have finally taken firm hold.

"Prior to June and July, Hawaii's visitor market had managed to weather the softness that was being felt by other travel destinations as a result of the slowing national economy," Marsha Wienert, the state tourism liaison, said.

The failure of Aloha and ATA airlines had an obvious impact, but Wienert said the withdrawal of two Norwegian Cruise Line ships were nearly as damaging.

"As an example," she said, "45 percent of Oahu's decline in arrivals can be attributed to decreased cruise visitors. The same holds true for the Neighbor Islands, where 83.7 percent of Kauai's, 46 percent of Maui's and 65 percent of the Big Island's decrease . . . are attributable to the decrease in cruise visitors."

The sharp declines of the past two months are now big enough to start moving the year over year averages, which had held up pretty well.

Spending statewide for the first seven months of 2008 has dropped 5 percent compared with 2007, to $7 billion - although that still is a billion dollars a month.

The average amount spent per visitor per day statewide continues to rise, though slowly. It is up $1 to $180 for the first seven months of the year.

The state is taking heart from growth in foreign markets, by double-digit percentages in the case of travelers from Oceania and Canada.

Although Maui's Canadian visitors have jumped more than 10 percent this year, the county's visitor market is predominantly domestic. In July, domestic arrivals outnumbered international by 179,911 to 18,209.

International arrivals held up better, but despite the contribution of Canadians they still were down 13.8 percent.

Oahu, which was at a disadvantage between 2003 and 2007 compared to Maui, because of its heavier dependance on foreign visitors, is now enjoying an advantage over the Valley Isle. International arrivals are down on Oahu, but by only 3.9 percent.

For several years, the Maui Visitors Bureau has worked to expand Maui's catchment area away from the western states, and this has had some success: this year visits from eastern states are more than 400,000, while visits from western states are more than 600,000.
Both are down by equal percentages, though - about 14 percent.

Canada has contributed 112,138 to Maui's total head count of 1,414,051. That's a drop, year-to-date, of 10.9 percent.

On Tuesday, DBEDT also released its final summary of 2007 visitor statistics. It was a record year, although the pace of growth slowed from the very fast growth of 2004-2006.
Spending was up 2.6 percent last year to a record $12.8 billion and visitor-days were up 0.3 percent to 70.1 million although total visits were flat at 7,627,819. Total visits in 2006 was 7,628,118.

For Maui, the numbers were up slightly: 2,580,361 in 2007 to 2,536,410 in 2006.

The complete report is at www.hawaii.gov/dbedt/info/visitors-stats/visitor-research.

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