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CATERING TO BIG SPENDERS PUMPS UP MAUI

An annual review of tourism on the island of Maui shows steady job growth and a robust visitor count as the island continues to benefit from its decision to cater to upscale tourists.

Maui decided in the 1970s to target affluent visitors, and that strategy apparently is paying off.

The island is doing better than other islands because many of its visitors come from the mainland, making it less affected by the economic problems in Japan and other parts of Asia, economist Leroy Laney says.

"It has not lost its cachet as the prime upscale Hawaii tourist destination, the result of years of careful image cultivation," adds Laney, a professor at Hawaii Pacific University.

A survey by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau found that people who visit Maui are richer than and stay twice as long as visitors who come to Oahu.

The survey results validate the island's decision to target upscale visitors, says Marsha Weinert of the Maui Visitors Bureau.

Despite some of the highest hotel room rates in the state, Weinert says only 2 percent of the people who visit Maui complained it was too expensive.

Maui tourism will continue to grow at between 2 percent and 3 percent a year, Laney says, citing the robust health of the U.S. economy.

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