Tourism statewide dropped 14.7 percent in April compared with the same period a year ago. Every major island saw a decline, with Maui's plunge especially gloomy at nearly 20 percent. Tourists who do come often enjoy a hula show, a favorite isle attraction.

Tourism tumbles
14.7% in April

Maui is hardest hit with
nearly a 20 percent drop
in visitors from last year

By Tim Ruel

Visitor arrivals on every major island dropped in April, as Japanese tourism hovered well below pre-Sept. 11 levels and overall U.S. travel declined.


A total of 476,046 visitors came to Hawaii last month, according to figures released yesterday by the state. That's a drop of 14.7 percent from 558,253 visitors in April 2001, which was the second-strongest showing ever for that month.

The record for April was set in 2000, with 571,975 arrivals.

An early Easter worsened April's numbers and boosted March arrivals, said Seiji Naya, director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.

"Considering the March Easter and measured against the high base of the second-strongest April on record in 2001, these results are not unexpected," Naya said.

Last month's numbers were especially gloomy on Maui, which saw its visitor count plunge nearly 20 percent, to 152,752 from 190,096. U.S. mainland arrivals to the Valley Isle fell 14.6 percent, while international arrivals dived 38.4 percent.

Statewide, visitor arrivals from the U.S. mainland fell 9.9 percent to 334,611 from 371,154 a year earlier, in keeping with national travel trends. Across the United States, total miles flown by paying passengers on airlines fell 10.6 percent in April from the same month in 2001, according to the Air Transport Association's Office of Economics.

Meanwhile, 100,961 Japanese visitors came to Hawaii in April, a drop of 21.3 percent from 128,243 visitors in April 2001. For the first four months of the year, overall Japanese tourism was down 23.6 percent.

Arrivals were down on Oahu, the Big Island, Kauai and Molokai. The only island to show improvement was Lanai, whose arrivals rose 23 percent, to 8,217 from 6,685.

Total statewide arrivals for the first four months of the year were down 12.3 percent to 2 million visitors from 2.28 million visitors last year, the state said.

Because of the overall drop in arrivals, visitor spending in Hawaii fell 3.7 percent in the first quarter, to $2.61 billion from $2.71 billion a year earlier, according to the most recent figures available from the state.

The drop was partially offset by a marked increase in spending by Japanese tourists, according to the state's figures. The average Japanese visitor spent $271 a day in the first quarter, a 29 percent jump from $210.50 in the previous year. As a result, total spending by the Japanese rose to $545.3 million from $533.7 million, despite the drop in Japanese visitors.

The yen has strengthened 8.6 percent since Jan. 24, going from 134.71 yen per dollar to 124.09, as of yesterday's market closing in New York.

"The yen has improved, inflation has set in and also they're buying bigger-ticketed items than before, but limited purchases," said local analyst Stephany Sofos of SL Sofos & Co.

To keep things in perspective, the Japanese used to spend as much as $325 a day in Hawaii in the mid-1990s, Sofos said.

Hawaii retailers that cater to the Japanese are either doing well or hurting, depending on what they sell, Sofos said. Surf shops, sportswear and mainstream clothing outlets have fallen out of favor, while expensive watches and leather goods are hot items.

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