- Associated Press - Thursday, March 27, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) - Visitors to Hawaii from the rest of the United States are declining, as fewer people visited the islands in February than in the same month last year, tourism officials said Thursday.

Hawaii welcomed about 647,000 visitors in February, the Hawaii Tourism Authority said. That’s 4.3 percent fewer than in February 2013.

Spending for the month was relatively flat at $1.2 billion, declining less than 1 percent. The drop in visitors was partly offset by higher daily spending of $203 per person, up 2.6 percent, according to the authority, which markets Hawaii to tourists worldwide.

Hawaii Tourism Authority CEO Mike McCartney said declining arrivals from the eastern and western U.S. is a trend likely to continue in the second quarter of the year.

“The (authority) has been focusing on growing arrivals from international markets like Korea, China and Taiwan,” McCartney said. “Our pivot to further develop international markets will help sustain Hawaii’s tourism economy for the long term.”

McCartney said Hawaii’s strategy also includes pushing for more meetings and conventions, along with travel to other islands besides Oahu.

Waikiki is by far Hawaii’s most popular destination, creating capacity issues during popular visiting seasons. The authority says that during the first 59 days of 2014, an average of nearly 220,000 guests were in Hawaii each day.

McCartney said the authority planned to try to re-establish Kona on the Big Island as an international airport and get more direct flights from international destinations overall.

Among the islands, Lanai saw the biggest drop in visitor arrivals in February, down 16.8 percent. Arrivals dropped 7.4 percent on the Big Island, 8.5 percent on Kauai and 2.9 percent on Maui. Molokai was the only island to see an increase, with February visitors up 11.5 percent to more than 4,700.

Spending dropped across the islands except on Kauai, where spending was flat, and the Big Island, where spending jumped 11.5 percent to $182 million.

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Oskar Garcia can be reached at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia .