2023 Hawaii Travel Ignites

2023 Hawaii Travel Ignites | Bedeviling Issues Remain

Hawaii travel for 2023 is off and running and likely to be stronger than expected. It comes following the latest data indicating visitor spending just eclipsed record-breaking 2019 results.

With data in for January through November 2022, visitors spent $17.4 billion here, which was +9% compared with 2019. That came even though the actual number of tourists was -11% at 9.4 million.

West coast visitors are spending 46% more.

Hawaii’s meat and potatoes visitors arrived in mass last month too, with 416k November visitors, up 11% compared with 2019. More significantly, they spent $564 million, up 46% in the nine average days visitors spend in Hawaii!

A significant slowdown in tourism is unlikely.

Over the past six months, some have worried about the visitor statistics in relation to a cooling economic environment and the lack of diversification in Hawaii. So the whipsaw question of too many or too few visitors continues. Our sense, however, is that significant slowing isn’t indicated.

As you recall, we said the Christmas and New Year holidays would be the next benchmark for 2023 Hawaii travel. Those numbers will take a few more weeks to come in, but we expect them to be very strong based on November data and what we see here on the ground. There had been concern voiced about the lack of typical far-in-advance holiday bookings.

While the neighbor islands primarily rely on strong domestic tourism, Honolulu especially continues to suffer from the long-awaited slow return of international arrivals. Japanese visitors are still down 90% from the average. The international problem won’t be helped by the upcoming plan to Covid test all Chinese visitors (and those traveling from China) before arrival. Lastly, another issue in Hawaii is the lack of group business and conference demand.

Hawaii remains all-in on travel.

Obviously, Hawaii didn’t take advantage of Covid-time to become more economically diversified. That is a frustration for many here in Hawaii. The state’s UHERO said the lack of diversity “Exposes Hawaii’s economy to external shocks that trigger collapses in tourist numbers.” Furthermore, Hawaii’s economic growth has diminished for decades as the dominance of tourism has not generated productivity growth.

Here are the issues that Hawaii visitors in 2023 will face.

  1. High Hawaii prices, taxes, and fees. Room rates and rental cars are up by 50% since before Covid, which isn’t entirely different than other US tourist destinations. We mentioned recently we are paying more for vehicles at LAX than in Hawaii. High accommodation rates are in addition to 18% room tax, plus fees of various types.
  2. US inflation plus looming recession. It isn’t clear how much of a recession there may be or how long it could last. It all depends on who you ask. Inflation seems to be stabilizing, but it is still a significant factor when it comes to vacation spending.
  3. High airfares. With the exception of those west coast markets still feeling the Southwest Effect, prices have increased significantly since before Covid.
  4. Service and staffing issues. Industry-wide, it is challenging to hire and retain travel industry employees, from ramp agents to housekeepers, waitpersons to front desk staff, and all the rest.

Are you coming to Hawaii in 2023?

We’d love to hear your plans.

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27 thoughts on “2023 Hawaii Travel Ignites | Bedeviling Issues Remain”

  1. Empty nesters who either invested well or are still working good paying jobs, women who travel with their girlfriends to share costs, time share owners and millennials who’ve are just now getting their footing.

    Are the groups from the west coast traveling to Hawaii.

    The women traveling together, because most guys are slugs, are the group that seems to be growing the most. In the last year my wife and 2 daughters made separate trips to Hawaii with their girlfriends.

  2. We are looking forward to heading to Kauai the end of January for two weeks. Staying at our paid for timeshares. We’ve been coming regularly for over 20 years to all the islands but Kauai feels like home. Yes Hawaii is expensive but coming from California we don’t experience the sticker shock others do. A favorite saying of mine is “you don’t go to Hawaii to save money.”

  3. Yep, we are headed to Kauai again in 2023 (as we have done annually since 2008). Rent the same condo with full a kitchen and a great view from the lanai. We have learned the good local spots within easy walking distance. Mostly, we just veg.

  4. As one who has made at least one visit to either Kauai, Maui or Hawaii Island (sorry Oahu… I can go to LA a lot cheaper) for the past 30+ years, this year we are going to take a giant step back and seriously consider other islands. Yes, there are other islands w/beautiful beaches, palm trees, gentle breezes and they actually love to have people visit – imagine that! It’s obvious the entitled natives/locals, not to mention inept politicians, have lost touch with reality and worst of all, the true meaning of Aloha… perhaps Disney could make a new movie entitled ‘Pirates of the Pacific’ starring the CEO’s of Marriott, Hertz, United, etc., with ample opportunities for the natives/locals and politicians to have major supporting roles.

  5. I like Beat of Hawaii but I think you all need to be a little more critical in your analysis. For example, you say “With data in for January through November 2022, visitors spent $17.4 billion here, which was +9% compared with 2019”. But according to any inflation calculator you find on the internet it takes $1.17 now to match the purchasing power of $1 from 2019. That’s 17% inflation since 2019. That means adjusted for inflation the amount of spending, in terms of wealth, is way down.

    You also say that WC visitors are spending 46% more, but since most lodging has shot up at least that much in most areas, especially Maui, that 46% likely doesn’t translate to West Coasters buying more goods or services. They’re just paying more rent.

  6. Yes! We are arriving this Saturday to Kauai and can’t wait!! Then the following Saturday we head to Maui where we have a timeshare and will meet up with our daughter, her husband, and their 4 kiddos! So we will be spending lots of money hahaha! Hoping and praying our flights don’t get diverted – that would be scary and especially bad for a family of 6 …. We re-did our car rentals about a week ago and the prices had dropped considerably from when we first reserved in early Fall (Costco). Thanks, BOH, for all the updates and work you do – so very helpful!

    1. Hi Glenna.

      Thanks! Best wishes for a great stay on Kauai and Maui. Excellent way to start the new year!


      1. Yes, planning on 2 1/2 weeks to Kauai end of September/October to camp in Kalalau my third time and avoid the busier summer. All depends on if I am successful in getting a camping permit in June. Can’t book my flight until I have my camping permit, but staying at the Sheraton Poipu for five days before the hike, and have a condo in Princeville rented for a week after. Got my rental car reserved a couple months ago, and price already went down $80 so I rebooked and will keep watching. $2424 for an SUV for 17 days, six of which it will be sitting unused. Its over $10K for basically a camping trip before meals. Used to be able to pull that off for $3K 15 years ago.

  7. You raised your prices to slow down tourism well it worked for me your prices are way too high. Hawaii only for the rich will find somewhere else to spend my money.


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