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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 11:12 a.m., Thursday, March 27, 2003

February tally shows drop in Mainland visitors

By Kelly Yamanouchi
Advertiser Staff Writer

The number of visitors coming from the Mainland fell for the first time since last April compared with year-ago figures, according to state data on February visitor arrivals.

"The uncertainty of war has now halted the continuous growth in domestic arrivals that began in May 2002," said Theodore Liu, director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. "Looking forward, we might expect that visitor activities will slow during the next few months as the conflict plays out."

The drop in domestic visitors contributed to a slight decrease in total visitors. About 501,260 visitors came to Hawai'i in February, down two-tenths of a percent compared with a year ago. The total number of days visitors spent here increased 4.8 percent in February. The average stay was 9.86 days, up 5 percent from a year ago.

Domestic arrivals fell 4.7 percent, with 328,519 coming to the Islands. U.S. West visitor arrivals fell 4.1 percent and U.S. East arrivals fell 7.1 percent.

Domestic visitor arrivals to O'ahu had the biggest decline of 12.7 percent compared with last February. The Big Island and Kaua'i also had declines, while Moloka'i, Lana'i and Maui had increases in U.S. visitors.

Liz Marquez, spokeswoman for the Fairmont Kea Lani on Maui, said there was no slowdown in business in February her resort.

"Everything is running smoothly for us," Marquez said. February through April are busy months for group travel, which has helped to keep occupancy steady at the Fairmont. "It's still the United States and they feel very safe here."

International arrivals were up 9.5 percent to 172,741 in February, compared to a year ago. That increase was expected because in February a year ago, international arrivals were still reeling from the falloff after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Japanese visitor arrivals increased 9.1 percent in February.

The number of cruise visitors fell 6.1 percent to 17,581, due in part to the cancellation of two sailings by a Royal Caribbean cruise ship that was docked for repairs in February.

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