Booming Tourism Growth Hits Popular Hawaii Neighbor Islands

Big Shift As Hawaii Tourism Boom Crushes Neighbor Islands +21%

Digging into dramatic growth in Hawaii tourism this summer, we were surprised at just how popular the neighbor islands have become in comparison to Honolulu. Read on for what that means on your next Hawaii vacation and how to cope. In fact, one neighbor island’s domestic visitor arrivals just rose 21% compared with the same period pre-Covid.

TSA piped up about summer tourism in general, stating what’s obvious here in Hawaii, too. Spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said that last Friday, the TSA had “the highest checkpoint volume since February 11, 2020.” In total they screened nearly 2.5 million passengers. She said “Get to the airport early, it’s busy!”

That was confirmed to us as well by Hawaiian Airlines spokesperson Alex DaSilva, who told us, “the one constant this summer is the volume of travelers (overall airport congestion).

The state of Hawaii concurs, saying that as “tourism recovery continues, employment has increased and… labor shortages have put some limit on the growth.”

Hawaii visitors shifting to lower-density, neighbor island experiences.

As far back as this spring, the state’s data indicated the recovery “was robust especially on the neighbor islands.” That trend is continuing and even accelerating further.

The Big Island, Kauai, and Maui have all pulled far ahead of Honolulu in domestic visitor growth, since the state’s last data set from April. At that time, Maui was +3%, Big Island was +8% and Kauai was +9% ahead. That has since changed significantly, as you’ll see below.

Honolulu domestic visitor arrivals June 2022. Unchanged.

So far this month (through June 26), there have been 375,863 domestic visitor arrivals. That compared with virtually the same number in 2019, which was 375,659.

Maui domestic visitor arrivals June 2022. +7%.

This month (through June 26), 216,298 domestic passenger arrivals have occurred on Maui. That compared to 203,018 in June 2019.

Kauai domestic visitor arrivals June 2022. +21%.

In June, to date (through June 26), there have been 79,628 domestic passenger arrivals. That compared to 65,586 in 2019.

Big Island domestic visitor arrivals June 2022 +19%.

In the first 26 days of June, there have been 106,323 domestical passenger arrivals. That compares to 89,321 in 2019.

What you can do about visitor congestion.

More than anything else, take a breath if you are visiting Hawaii this summer, and hopefully things will go smoothly. That given the continuing rash of Hawaii flight delays, and some cancelations too.

Be prepared, especially on the neighbor islands this summer, for more traffic, lack of availability, lines, and busy beaches. Plan ahead. Remember that it’s going to be busier than our limited resources can accommodate, so please have patience and practice Aloha.

Prepare for traffic congestion. It can take hours to cross from one side of an island to another. Plan accordingly and check Maps before heading out. Please allow extra time to reach your destinations unharried and to remain in a vacation state of mind.

Worker shortages continue to frustrate everyone. With more than enough customers but inadequate staff, wait times may get stretched.

And a new phenomenon: rapidly changing Hawaii business hours.

We’ve addressed labor shortages at Hawaii hotels, restaurants, and activity providers. In the past couple of months, we’ve experienced something different. We show up at or drive by a Hawaii restaurant or coffee bar and find them suddenly closed during their otherwise normal business hours. It seems that as staff availability rapidly shifts, these businesses are quickly putting up handmade signs in the windows and changing hours to make accommodations. We’ve seen this at both chain and locally owned eateries. Keep this in mind, and welcome to the new normal.

What experiences have you had recently on your Hawaii vacation?

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44 thoughts on “Big Shift As Hawaii Tourism Boom Crushes Neighbor Islands +21%”

  1. I just returned from a week in Maui and a week on Kauai. I was pleased that it wasn’t nearly as congested as I was expecting. The roads to Hana and Ha’ena were pleasant with no gridlock or major slowdowns. As east coasters we prefer to travel south into Central and South America to stay within a time zone or two, but we’d be happy to return again based on our experiences. I’m already missing the shave ice.

  2. After reading this article I began thinking about what it said, an increase in the “Service Industry” of over 20% in one year. That Number should be Embraced, Fostered and Encouraged. There will seemingly always be neighsayer’s intent on causing dissent but maybe there’s also some of what is said that can be addressed. I have seen negative feelings that remind me of people who post about bad conditions in hotels and resorts although they’re Never been there. Everything with a Grain of Salt. I Enjoy Vacations on Oahu and hopefully will be back, time will tell if it’s possible or not.

  3. We visited the big island in November 2021 and again in May 2022. There was a drastic deterioration in customer service noted in the airline, restaurants, hotel & car rental agency. It was so disappointing. We used the same airline, hotel & restaurants on both trips. The airplane had no WiFi or food for purchase. The restaurants (especially at the hotel) had limited hours i.e. less hours open in May than previous Nov. & less staff; which led to worse customer service. We were there 8 days & our linen was only changed once in May, whereas in Nov. we had a choice.

  4. Interesting that Oahu is experiencing flat growth, currently, compared with other Island/Counties. It’s some consolation that the numbers haven’t dropped and the money is helping to stimulate the economy. Could this shift in Tourism be motivated by simple choice of discovery or the politics of Oahu? With November fastly approaching and probable confusion, and court proceedings looming, are people seeking refuge on other Islands? Will this become more of a fad or trend as time progresses? See it as a Good Thing at least for now!

  5. Being in the hospitality business this is good news. With this uptick in mind let’s all try to be more thoughtful as everyone is in this together and a helping hand is always welcome!

  6. We spent two weeks in Maui, just north of Lahaina, in February of this year. Beautiful weather, and lots and lots of whales and turtles made for a very pleasant vacation. But we won’t be going back anytime soon just because of the enormous increase in traffic and tourists. The north shore of Ohau, Kaui, and a return to the big island are on our radar to visit, but we are done with Maui. As respectful eco-tourists, we just don’t want to be lumped in with the increasing number disrespectful, loud, and careless folks who have spent zero amount of time understanding the history and culture of Hawaii and its indigenous people.

  7. Just spent 4 days on Oahu and 7 on Maui. Yes, things are more expensive now, but what isn’t? Every worker we encountered was delightful. Our inter island flight was cancelled but that was our mistake for booking thru a third party. Book those directly with Hawaiian airlines. Pearl Harbor is having some issues with getting passengers over to the Arizona Memorial. We were told that it was issues with the dock so they are limiting tickets over. They will fix it and we will try again. Our rental car was old but hey, it’s vacation. The rental car companies are doing the best they can with the inventory they have. We’re having new car supply issues on the mainland too. Be patient, be kind and live aloha. That’s why you go there. Mahalo

  8. And your covid rates are high. No surprise there no masks and lots of tourists guess money is more important than infections.

  9. Hotels suck. Way Over priced & lousy service. Makes no sence for our large extended family vacations. If the State cant increase the short term vacation supply we will stop visiting Hawaii.

    1. You hit a nerve.Ouch.! Truth is that it realy is far too Over-tourismed.But so is Disneyland. We who’ve lived generations, or at least a few years ahead of the loomarketing of Hawaii’s Aloha Friday song & AlohaRealty stampede can’t easily find a tiny 7’x 20′ “studio” rental stateside on a golf course, ski lodge,or fishing trip w/o feeling offended at uber-priced rentals stateside. Yikes.! Who could leave all of this.? Move here before the “dreamers” show up with multi-level condo’s..flushing 1000’s more toilets into Sea.

  10. If we are have more tourists then we know what to do with why are we funding the Hawaii tourism authority to do marketing at a cost of $60 Million???

    Also if a large part of that is to operate the convention center it better pay for itself not cost additional tax dollars to operate it. We already have enough things losing money in Hawaii.

    1. Hi Steven H, I believe that you’re on point with Funding for the Convention Center, they “should be” self-sustainable short of the initial start-up costs. With Covid stopping so much restarting the Center may take some initial funding again and then be self reliant. The Tourism Bureaus $60 MM per year is well spent attempting to draw Tourists from around the world, for every dollar spent the return is unbelievably high. Print and Internet Advertising isn’t cheap, let’s not forget the translation into other languages properly. Without those dollar’s you would still see Tourists but potentially declining numbers and revenue, businesses closing forever. A chain reaction. Take care.

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