Kauais visitor numbers boosted by U.S. arrivals, cruise calls

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LIHUE, Hawaii   -- Fueled by a 27% increase in arrivals in November compared with the same month a year earlier, Kauai received nearly 1.1 million visitors in 2005, according to Hawaiis Dept. of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Healthy increases in traffic from the U.S. West and East coasts and a rise in cruise ship calls boosted Kauais numbers in 2005.

Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau, said the year-end visitor tally represented a 6% increase over arrivals in 2004.

Meanwhile, the KVB said visitor spending on Kauai increased last year by nearly 5%, to $164 per person, per day.

In 2005, local officials recorded a 4% increase in visitors who stayed on Kauai only. Kanoho said one-island stays in Hawaii are on the upswing because of the perceived hassle of air travel.

Kauais total arrival numbers were up even though international arrivals fell almost 20%. Air Canada no longer flies directly to Kauai, accounting for some of the 20% decrease, according to Kanoho.

In addition, the Japanese travel trade, which previously blocked large numbers of area hotel rooms only to leave many unfilled at the last minute, are no longer being given that opportunity, she said.

Instead, the hotels now prefer to cater to U.S. wholesalers or independent travelers.

And with the entry of Norwegian Cruise Line into the Hawaii market, Kauais cruise arrivals jumped more than 30%.

However, as is the case with many small ports, local and state officials are learning how to handle the large numbers of people brought in by passenger ships.

Kanoho said she hopes more regulatory systems are in place by the time NCLs Pride of Hawaii -- its third ship in Hawaii -- begins plying area waters this April.

The Pride of Hawaii will join the Pride of Aloha and the Pride of America in offering seven-day, interisland cruises.

The KVB anticipates a 2% to 3% growth in arrivals in 2006, at which point the island may be at full capacity, Kanoho said.

Priorities at the KVB for this year include paying particular attention to infrastructure as visitor numbers grow.

When youre bringing in higher-spending visitors, they have higher expectations, Kanoho said. We have to be sure we can fulfill those expectations.

Annual consumer surveys conducted for the KVB indicate high levels of visitor satisfaction. Most recently, 97% of visitors surveyed said their stay was above average or excellent, said the KVB.

All told, the islands marketing strategy will remain the same for 2006.

Each island has its own story, and our messages are natural beauty, diversity of activities, romance and golf, Kanoho said.

Kauai has nine golf courses and is enjoying an increase in romance-related travel such as weddings, honeymoons, vow-renewal services and second honeymoons.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].

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