Hawaii's Slower Holiday Season Beckons Savvy Travelers

Bright Lights Shine Despite Hawaii Visitors Latest Decline

Hawaii visitor arrivals and spending have been on the decline for the past two consecutive months when compared to 2022. That’s bad news for Hawaii but may be good news for visitors looking ahead at the holiday season or wanting less crowded beaches. We’ll share our analysis of the findings with you that were released today from the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT)

According to Hawaii Tourism, “both visitor arrivals and visitor spending decreased for the second consecutive month compared to 2022.” The state says it is as Hawaii’s tourism continuing to be impacted by “the aftermath of the August Lahaina fires. That is true to a significant degree but may not fully explain the data.

The Christmas and New Year holiday period may be less robust than in prior years.

Typical seasonal airfares are a measure we’ve used for years to look at visitor demand. Flying to Hawaii from the West Coast has, for many years, cost $700+ round-trip during the December holiday season. In checking this morning, however, we found from both Southern and Northern California, many surprisingly cheaper airfares.

Examples of lower Hawaii airfare for the holidays.

Looking at west coast departures to Maui, the lowest fares we found today are starting from about $450 RT, from all-important Northern and Southern California gateways. Flights to Kona are at or near typical $700 rates from Northern California and up to $200 less than normal from Southern CA. Honolulu airfares, by comparison, are also starting at from $100-$200 less than normal for high-season rates from both Southern California and Northern California. It’s also interesting to note that virtually all Kauai airfares are at or above normal holiday season prices.

In terms of the numbers the state just reported, 651K visitors came to Hawaii in September, which is a decrease of 7% from the prior year and down 12% compared with 2019. Visitor spending of $1.4 billion was down 9.6% compared with 2022. But still up 10.2% compared with 2019.

So the net effect is that 12% fewer visitors are spending 10% more than pre-Covid. That is largely a function of the sky-high costs that visitors incur, starting with Hawaii hotels and other expenses. The length of time that visitors spend in Hawaii remains mostly unchanged, at just under 9 days.

Airline seats to Hawaii are still somewhat down.

Last month, 4,374 flights arrived in Hawaii, with 964,132 seats. Flights are down about 3% compared with both 2019 and 2022, and seats are about on par with 2022 but down 5% compared with September 2019.

Impact of Maui fires.

Maui took the brunt of Hawaii’s tourism shortfall. The state said, “The impacts from the Maui wildfires were significant in September 2023 with “Both visitor arrivals and visitor expenditures down by more than 50 percent for Maui for the month compared to 2022. Visitor arrivals on Maui in September 2023 (94,221) recorded the lowest since February 2021 and visitor spending of $203.2 million on Maui in September 2023 was the lowest since March 2021.”

Hawaii remains in a tourism slump for a myriad of reasons.

The fire undoubtedly had a huge impact as seen in the worst Maui showings since the Covid shutdown. But it goes beyond that. Hawaii continues to suffer from very high visitor costs. Also, tourists read in social media about not being wanted. Add to that the lack of appropriate, high-quality tourism infrastructure, and a widespread shortage of employees, among other things, as some of the top reasons that some travelers are thinking of or choosing other destinations. And we’ve definitely seen far more comments specifically to that effect recently than ever before. There may also be a waning of travel interest or available travel money, although that certainly wasn’t apparent elsewhere in our travels from May until October.

Where are travelers going instead?

They are heading to Mexico, the Caribbean, and other tropical destinations that are still near the US mainland and are attainable at lower cost. At the same time, there’s a stronger than ever demand for international travel by Americans who are flocking to Europe and elsewhere. We witnessed that clearly this summer. Destinations including London, Switzerland, Spain and France were clearly overwhelmed, largely by American holiday-seekers.

Is Hawaii on your short-term bucket list?

Leave a Comment

Comment policy:
* No profanity, rudeness, personal attacks, or bullying.
* Hawaii focused only. General comments won't be published.
* No links or UPPER CASE text. English please.
* No duplicate posts or using multiple names.
* Use a real first name, last initial.
* Comments edited/published/responded to at our discretion.
* Beat of Hawaii has no relationship with our commentors.
* 1,000 character limit.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

34 thoughts on “Bright Lights Shine Despite Hawaii Visitors Latest Decline”

  1. I am trying to find a reasonable round trip from Austin, Tx to Hawaii from March 9-16. I would like to fly business class at least but the flights are almost double what we paid in early 2020. Is it better to wait until December-January to get the lowest price or what do you recommend?

  2. We went to Oahu in May for 17 days. It’s difficult with the exchange rate because we are Canadian. But that did. It deter us. What does deter us is the ridiculous cost of hotels in Waikiki and mostly with the resort fees and taxes added which increased the room rate by $100 per night. I don’t understand the greedy way of thinking behind these hotels. I just don’t understand how they think this is fair.

    1. Brenda. This greed is world-wide. But, for me who loves the Hawaiian islands more than anything I know, it irks me the most. Yes, we all know everything costs more on islands. But it is beyond this. So, I certainly hear you. And afraid it is life now, sad sad way of life. I keep thinking that if I win the lottery, would take a random person like yourself, and enjoy paradise free of charge. Its just not fair to us!

  3. 2)We typically shy away from black rock beach as it is one of the most popular beaches on the west side. We were able to snorkel black rock and there was maybe 10 people in the water. Sea life overall has picked up, since the down turn in tourist. The golf courses looked busy from what we saw. We were also at a resort that is housing deplaced families from Lahaina. They was mutual respect and we had no issues of feeling unwanted. Only half the pools were open at the resort but plenty of room for all and the restaurant was open. Airport seemed crowded but not overly. Rental car prices are down on Maui as we got a mid size SUV for $250/week. If you have a chance go to Maui before it gets back to normal. Good opportunity to support Maui.

  4. 1) I just got back from North Kaanapali which of course is on the west side of Maui. We have a place there and wanted to see how things were since we are having guests arrive in November. Almost all of the grocery stores were open except for Foodland Farms. Safeway and Times Market were open. Almost all of the non-Lahaina restaurants were open except for Monkeypod in Whalers Village which is opened yesterday I believe. I would say about 75% of the stores in Whalers were open. We went to Black Rock Beach (Sheraton) and there were no crowds at all. Sheraton is not open as they are housing FEMA, National Guard and other response units as well as Sheraton workers. The ocean bar is open, so if you go try and support them.

  5. The way the US $$$$ is a lot Canadians are looking else where to winter was a regular from 2002-2020 but now looking to go to Cuba because of the price and value hope to get back when the US $$$ comes down Aloha


Scroll to Top