comscore COVID-19 tourism impacts started in February, but overall results were still good | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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COVID-19 tourism impacts started in February, but overall results were still good

  • GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                The cruise ship Oceania Regatta, operated by Oceania Cruises, sat in the channel outside Honolulu Harbor, March 23.

    GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM

    The cruise ship Oceania Regatta, operated by Oceania Cruises, sat in the channel outside Honolulu Harbor, March 23.

Visitor arrivals to Hawaii and spending rose in February when the new coronavirus was only starting to impact the state’s international markets and there were still plenty of flights and visitor arrivals from the U.S.

Visitor arrivals in February grew to 828,056, up nearly 6% from the same month last year, according to preliminary data released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority today. Spending also grew almost 5% to nearly $1.5 billion.

Despite some COVID-19 wobbling, the February results kept the year-to-date tally positive for most aspects of Hawaii’s visitor industry. During the first two months of the year, arrivals grew nearly 6% to almost 1.7 million and spending climbed nearly 5% to nearly $3.2 billion.

Of course, that’s all changed since flight reductions expanded and the state instituted a mandatory 14-day quarantine for trans-Pacific passengers as part of its COVID-19 containment measures. At midnight Wednesday, the state will expand the quarantine to interisland flights, which is expected to show further reductions.

A look back explains the difference a week or two can make. Domestic visitors to Hawaii in February grew just over 12% to 574,246, while international arrivals fell 6% to 238,721. February was when COVID-19-related flight cancellations from international destinations to the Hawaiian Islands began. The China visitor source market was the first to take a hit with direct air service suspended Feb. 3 following a travel ban on Chinese citizens to the U.S.

A substantial increase in air seats was a reason that Hawaii, a mostly fly-to destination, achieved solid February gains. HTA reported that total air capacity increased in February by nearly 10% to more than 1.1 million seats. On any given day, there was an average of 38,186 seats.

Average daily scheduled seats from Hawaii’s top U.S. West market rose more than 11% to 23,536, while average daily air seats from the U.S. East climbed nearly 19% to 3,739 seats per day. These domestic increases offset international declines. Japan, Hawaii’s largest international market, saw average daily air seat counts fall about 1% to 5,581. Canada declined more than 9% to 2,126. Oceania dropped more than 13% to 1,070 seats per day. Other Asia, which includes nations outside of Japan, fell more than 30% to 1,095 seats.

Visitor arrivals by cruise ship also declined more than 7% to 15,089.

This February’s extra leap-year day skewed the positive results slightly. However, that was somewhat tempered by a nearly 2% drop in the average length of stay which shortened to an average of 8.76 days. On any given day in the Hawaiian islands, there were an average of 250,052 visitors, up only 0.5% from February 2019.

Results were mixed across the islands, with the only spending hits going to Oahu, which gets the lion’s share of the state’s international arrivals, and Lanai, a mostly luxury market. Arrivals declines were only seen on Molokai, Lanai and from cruise ships.

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