by The Associated Press, February 3, 2020
WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) — Maui surpassed 3 million annual visitors for the first time since the The Hawaii Tourism Authority began keeping records, a new report said.
The authority’s latest visitor statistics show Maui led neighboring islands in 2019, The Maui News reported Sunday.
The figure was a 5.4% increase from the previous year prior and the highest number since the organization began tracking tourists numbers in 1990.
Preliminary data shows the state exceeded 10.4 million annual tourists for the first time last year, the authority said.
Annual visitors to Maui have only dipped below 2 million once since 1990, with 1.8 million visitors in 2009.
Maui visitor spending also hit a new high last year of $5.12 billion, a 2.4% increase over 2018. Daily visitor spending dropped 0.6% to $211 per person, the authority said.
Visitor days increased 3% percent to 66,414 in 2019. During Maui’s slowest month of September, an average of more than 52,300 visitors were on the island on any given day. The island’s busiest month of December had 75,884 average daily visitors, the authority reported.
December 2019 showed increases over the previous year in overall visitor spending, daily visitor spending and visitor arrivals.
Rod Antone, Maui Hotel and Lodging Association executive director, said the tourism authority's figures only provide a snapshot.
“The other part of the story is that the industry, government and members of the community are all working together to help manage tourism and educate our visitors,” Antone said.
Albert Perez, executive director of Maui Tomorrow Foundation, said the island is becoming an “overtouristed” place and his nonprofit group opposes increases in visitor accommodations.
“There’s got to be some recognition that we are on an island and it has a carrying capacity," Perez said. "There are only so many miles of beaches. In fact, our beaches are shrinking from sea-level rise.”