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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Valley Isle visitors spending the most

By Kelly Yamanouchi
Advertiser Staff Writer

Visitors are opening their wallets wider on Maui, but tourists on Kaua'i, the Big Island and Moloka'i are pinching their pennies more, according to a state report released yesterday.

Visitors to Maui spent an average of $173 per person per day in the first nine months of 2003, up from $163 in the same period last year.

On Kaua'i, visitor spending fell slightly to $144 in the first three quarters of this year, down from $146.

On the Big Island, visitors spent an average of $138, down from $141.

And on Moloka'i, tourists spent only $81 per person, down from $85 in the first nine months of 2002.

The Neighbor Island visitor spending figures are aimed at illuminating visitors' spending habits, and do not include O'ahu data.

"Visitor spending is our gauge as to what impact visitors have on our economy," said Gov. Linda Lingle's tourism liaison, Marsha Wienert.

Maui continues to be the favorite of higher-spending tourists. How is Maui able to buck the trend?

"(Maui) no ka 'oi?" suggested Toni Marie Davis, executive director of the Activities and Attractions Association of Hawai'i, based in Kahului.

But seriously, Davis said part of the reason for the island's higher spending figures is that many Maui tourist activities such as eco-tours, horseback riding, cruises and golf cost as much as $75 per person or more.

"There are very few lower-end admission-type attractions," Davis said. And that appears to be just fine with many Maui tourists.

"People that visit Maui, they're not as much of a discount shopper," Davis said. "Even the families that visit here, it's not as much of an issue."

People visiting Moloka'i spent the least on lodging on average, $35 per person, while those on Lana'i spent the most at $132 per person.

The state data show visitors to every island spent less on shopping in the first nine months of 2003 compared with last year, with the exception of the Big Island.

In Hilo, visitor dollars spent on shopping increased to an average of $50.10 per day, from $29.66 a year ago.

Reach Kelly Yamanouchi at 535-2470, or at kyamanouchi@honoluluadvertiser.com.