September visitor arrivals to Hawaii had the worst monthly dip compared with the same month in pre-pandemic times since April, when COVID-19 vaccination distribution was starting to improve travel demand.
A lack of international visitors to Hawaii combined with a COVID-19 surge and Gov. David Ige’s late-August plea for travelers to avoid non-essential trips to Hawaii through October contributed to a 31.3% drop in September visitor arrivals from pre-pandemic times.
September visitor spending, which reached $1.05 billion, also was 15.4% below the $1.25 billion generated in September 2019. Spending comparisons are not available from September 2020 because the departure survey was not conducted due to COVID-19 restrictions.
In September, 505,861 visitors arrived by air to the islands, up significantly from the 18,409 visitors who came to Hawaii in September 2020. However, the results were down from the 736,155 who traveled to Hawaii in September 2019, according to preliminary statistics released today by the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
On any given day in September, there were 154,355 visitors in the Hawaii up significantly from 20,472 visitors a day in 2020, but below the 206,169 in September 2019.
The domestic market outperformed 2019.
It was up by 10.7% for the U.S. West, Hawaii’s core visitors market, and up by 9.3% in the U.S. East. However, the gains weren’t high enough to offset continued flat-lining in Hawaii’s international markets, which created mixed results across the islands.
“The late- summer surge of the delta variant continued to depress visitor spending and visitor arrivals in September, which had a negative impact on our state’s economy and more importantly, the health of our residents,” Hawaii Tourism Authority president and CEO John De Fries said in a statement. “However, despite the anticipated slowdown in fall travel we were encouraged to see the positive results from the U.S. West and U.S. East markets knowing how visitor spending translates into continued support for jobs in our community.”
DBEDT director Mike McCartney said in a statement that year-to-date through September numbers show that 2021 Hawaii’s visitor arrivals are down by 38% to 3.2 million, and visitor spending is down by 32% to $4.2 billion compared with 2019 levels.
“Over the past 18 months we have learned and done many things that collectively changed the trajectory of Hawaii. We have shifted from fearing COVID-19 to respecting it, managing it and ultimately, living with it,” McCartney said. “Our actions to put public health before economic prosperity will start to pay dividends in the months to come.”
McCartney said Hawaii is seeing positive signs that the visitor economy will begin to recover at an accelerated rate with the return of fully vaccinated international visitors.
“I am optimistic that we will end 2021 stronger and enter 2022 with solid momentum for growth,” he said. “It will still be challenging at times, but I am confident Hawaii is ready, now more than ever, to be open for business.”