Hawaii’s Tourism Woes Unfold: Unfazed Downturn Continues

For the past five months and counting, Hawaii visitor arrivals have continued their downtrend trend following the tragic Lahaina fire.

While West Maui represents only 15% of the entire island of Maui, the loss to tourism in that area is felt throughout the entire state. In December, total visitor arrivals to the Hawaiian Islands from all-important west coast visitors were down 5.1%, while east coast visitors were down 8.4%.

These were down only slightly in December 2023, compared to 2022, according to the state’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT). 

“The data shows reason for optimism that travel to Hawaii is continuing to recover since the pandemic and since the Maui wildfires. While the decision to reopen West Maui to visitors was difficult, the numbers show that visitor industry revenue is helping the people of Maui.”

Governor Josh Green, M.D.

It’s no surprise that Hawaii visitors are still spending more overall.

While the state shows visitor spending has been down the past five months, when you look at the year overall, visitors have been spending more.

Hawaii visitor spending during 2023 increased over 2022. We suspect that’s seen as good news by the state. But visitors and residents who travel are being hit right at the wallet. We recently planned a trip to Maui and, even with our Kamaaina (resident) discount, were surprised at the nightly rates of Maui hotels, with many hovering at $600 or more.

Hawaii visitor spending in 2023 was $20.78 billion, which “compared to $19.70 billion (+5.5%) in 2022 and $17.72 billion (+17.3%) in 2019,” according to the state. For the year, visitor numbers increased by 4.4 percent but declined by 7.1 percent compared to 2019.

Keep an eye on what becomes of Hawaii’s prized return visitors.

The state shows that “Most U.S. West visitors in December 2023 had been to Hawaii before (84.5%) while 15.5 percent were first-time visitors.” Given the sentiment shared in your comments, that is an important statistic to pay attention to. Remember, too, that December tends to have among the greatest number of return visitors who often pay for their Hawaii vacations a full year in advance.

Island by island Hawaii visitor numbers and spending.

Oahu visitors: Up 6.0% in December compared with 2022 but -7.9% compared with 2019. Spending +1.3% compared with 2022 and +13.7% compared with 2019.

Maui visitors: -24.8% in December compared with 2022 and -28.7% in 2019. Spending was -20.4% compared with 2022 and -9.5% compared with 2019.

Kauai visitors: -1.5% in December compared with 2022 and -3.3% in 2019. Spending was +32.9% compared with 2022 and +51.9% compared with December 2019.

Big Island visitors: +2.7% in December compared with 2022 and -8.3% in December 2019.  Spending was +4.9% compared with 2022 and +17.9% compared with December 2019.

Please tell us your thoughts on the downturn in Hawaii visitors and an uptick in spending.


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130 thoughts on “Hawaii’s Tourism Woes Unfold: Unfazed Downturn Continues”

  1. Well, All travelers heard was ‘We don’t want you’, ‘ We don’t need you’….. so they got what they wanted with the help of online ‘locals’ bullying visitors in Hawaii groups.

  2. Every guest we have here on the islands mentions the (real or imagined) anti tourist sentiment, the astronomical prices for food and lodging, and the crime and homeless vagrants and their trash nearly everywhere you go and shop! Are we really surprised that Japanese tourist who come from a clean, safe, and law abiding society are reluctant to come here?

    1. There are many of us that have experienced the anti-tourist sentiment, but it’s not just that. It’s anti-white sentiment as well. They manage to mix in both when they display it. I didn’t even know the term “haole” until we visited. Looking back, they routinely smiled as they called people that right to their face. Regarding the Japanese, it’s kind of a double-whammy with that demo as they have been going to Hawaii for a lot longer than US tourists. When you alienate your longest-running tourist customers, you show that you really don’t care out tourists and tourisms dollars at all.

  3. Aloha,
    I’m going to Maui in 2 weeks for 9 days.
    I have been 14 times to all the islands. I know this will be my last trip. Lodging is just to expensive. Food for me about the same. It’s Lodging. I went to Maui 15 years ago and paid 59. A night condo kihei , last trip Maui 9 years ago condo 79. A night. This trip 321. A night. These are 1 bedrooms not up scale. Nothing fancy at all.
    But I will be spending my money to as much local businesses as possible.

  4. It’s not surprising. My wife and I absolutely love Maui and have been there 5 times in the last 3 years. It was made very clear tourist’s are not welcome so we just went to Cozumel. Even if we were welcome, they are price gouging so forget it. Wish everyone well over there.

    1. Everyone has their favorite beach. We just returned from Maui’s west coast. As to being welcomed on Maui, our experience was just the opposite. We were welcomed every where we went. It was a great trip.

      Since Covid, the prices in Wailea have increased. My opinion is that that some hotels are focusing in on the 20% of the tourists that bring in 80% of the revenue. This is not the Maui Aloha spirit but price gouging because these hotels know that there is a limited supply of hotel rooms and the demand after Covid has increased.

  5. All things equal with other tourist areas, nothing will change until very millisecond the hotel and condo investors see a dip in profits, until then, skies the limit.

    1. Mark B

      I think Joe is correct.
      Maui has been a Paradise for many years for tourists to enjoy. However, even Paradise has the same problems we have on the Mainland. For example, homeless, fresh water, sewage, wild fires, schools, jobs, corruption, etc. These problems can’t be resolved by increasing taxes on tourists who are on the lowest rung of the ladder. Too often, short term solutions are selected because they are less expensive and made behind the curtain which very few are privy to. Although responsible tourism can be a factor in finding long term and balanced solutions to these issues, we need participants on every rung of the ladder, top down, including hotel chains, business, government, to find and fund these solutions.

  6. The first time the first time I visited Hawaii was 2016 I have been back to Maui eight times since I loved Maui as soon as I left I wanted to go back I was there for Christmas and New Years this year and to be honest I don’t know when or if I’ll go back it will start the same don’t feel as welcomed so I can spend my money elsewhere.


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