Beat of Hawaii

After Maui Fire, Visitors Flocked To Kauai And Prices Soared

The State of Hawaii has released final numbers from the Department of Tourism regarding tourism in August, largely following the Lahaina fire. Without the decrease in Maui travel, everything has changed. In total, 769K visitors came to Hawaii, which was down 7.3 percent compared with 2022. Hawaii travel is still only 83% recovered following Covid.

And even as costs continue to skyrocket, most notably for accommodations, Hawaii’s total visitor spending was $1.58B, down 9.2% compared with 2022 and up 5.4% compared with 2019.

Terrible messaging decimated much of Hawaii travel following Lahaina fire.

When the Lieutenant Governor asked visitors to leave all of Maui and discouraged all travel to the island, it wreaked havoc on the travel industry and its visitors. Even the state finally acknowledges that, in a limited way, saying, “This messaging may have impacted travel to other islands.” (Editor’s Note: Oh boy, are they ever late to the party).

In August 2023, Hawaii visitor arrival results were highly mixed:

  • Oahu – 507,702 visitors, +11.0% – partly Maui fire-related.
  • Big Island – 152,951, +4.1% – true increase.
  • Kauai – 131,628 visitors, +9.0% – true increase.
  • Maui – 112,259 visitors, -57.8%. – fire-related.

Our sense is that the visitor count on Oahu was largely inflated in the period following the evacuation of visitors from Maui. We say that anecdotally since BOH editors were on Oahu the week following the fire, and it was mobbed with visitors who had left Maui but, prior to the fire, had no intention of visiting Oahu.

Visitors from the US Mainland shunned Hawaii in August.

In August 2023, just 392K visitors came from the Western US, down 16.0% compared with 2022. California visitors were down even more at 18%. East Coast visitors were similarly impacted while representing smaller numbers. 183K visitors arrived, down 16% compared with 2022. International visitors, notably from Japan, remained depressed, with 64K arrivals, still down 60% compared with before Covid. Canadian visitors, who complain regularly about the poor exchange rate, were down 21% at 29K.

Visitor spending has soared in Hawaii since Covid. Room rates have risen up to 71%

On Kauai, for example, the state reported that visitors coughed far more money on nightly hotel room rates in August 2023 compared with before Covid. “Kauai hotels led the counties (islands) in August 2023. The average daily room rate is up 71% on Kauai compared with 2019.”

The average nightly rate on Kauai was $444 prior to taxes and fees. Even then, visitors were willing, with occupancy rates at over 80%. The Big Island reported similar costs, albeit with 10% less occupancy than Kauai.

How much does it cost to stay at Kauai’s largest hotel?

While the average nightly rate is one thing, on checking the island’s largest hotel, the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, however, we found something different. The cheapest nightly rates this fall are starting at over $800. And that’s prior to almost 18% taxes, plus a $45/nightly resort fee. It effectively brings their lowest room rate up to about $1,000/night.

Could a shift to fewer returning visitors come next?

We suspect that trend may already be in progress, while not yet reflected in the state’s data. We’ll be watching for that ahead. But for August, at least, a whopping 79% of arrivals had been to Hawaii previously.

Maui continues lackluster performance following West Maui reopening.

When West Maui travel resumed last weekend, it looked as if visitors to the island overall were no more ready to return than some residents are ready to welcome them. The Maui visitor arrivals count on opening day and since is following in a tight range, hovering at about 4,000. Normal for this time of year is nearly double that. A continued downward adjustment in expectations seems in order. The August performance was the lowest Maui visitor count since Covid.

What are your travel plans for Hawaii in the next 12 months, and where are you headed?


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30 thoughts on “After Maui Fire, Visitors Flocked To Kauai And Prices Soared”

  1. We’re coming back first week of January 2024 to visit our son at UH and will split time at Royal Hawaiian and turtle bay but we’re really disappointed in the hotel pricing.
    We will go low budget on eating out.
    We got good round trip air fare though.
    Jim m

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