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Key Hawaii Travel Market Drops Unexpectedly | Is That A Good Thing?

While Hawaii has continued to outperform all expectations with the return of travelers following Covid, recent data from the State showed that overall visitors continued to increase in a trend that has continued for 24 straight months, a significant downward trend in a key Hawaii market ominously entered the picture.

Trouble brewing for Hawai travel – West Coast market dips unexpectedly.

This is the most important domestic market for Hawaii travel. The news from the US West is different now. Arrivals from the western US, while still up 20% from April 2019, have dropped 10% compared with last year. But a trend we talked about this week is clear. While visitors are still very keen on travel, they look further afield for vacations.

We suggest it is heading in two directions, both closer to home, including drive-to and fly-in vacations, and towards more international travel, as we’ve recently discussed. By comparison, the relatively small eastern US market was only down just over 1% compared with last year.

Hawaii relies exclusively on mainland visitors without substantive return of international travel.

The lack of clear indication of when international travel volume will return to normal, plus the sudden unexpected decline in visitors from the western US, are objective indications that Hawaii travel will face headwinds ahead. That concern is confirmed by UHERO, the State’s economic research group. However, they are more optimistic than we are about a near-term international recovery and said, “Further international market recovery will sustain visitor numbers.” That while acknowledging that the return of Japanese visitors isn’t as straightforward, with less than 30% of average arrivals in April and spending down some 65%. We see it taking another one to two years to recover the Hawaii international visitor market fully. Canada doesn’t fare much better, with a 31% visitor decline since pre-Covid.

A drop in tourism better aligns with Hawaii’s lack of infrastructure.

Visitors outnumber locals seven to one. That puts a strain on every one since Hawaii has not invested heavily in its infrastructure to support the higher demand for tourism. You may have felt it too when visiting Hawaii after Covid. Transportation options are limited, so our roads and highways that have more vehicle traffic, including rental cars, than they can handle. When trying to get into restaurants, there’s not always adequate staffing to accommodate everyone. Park and beach restrooms need to be renovated, and famous beaches are overcrowded. The natural resources of Hawaii need to be preserved for future generations, which is one reason why traffic between Hanalei and Kee Beach is limited to a specific number of visitors and cars daily. Then there are the airports that should be updated to handle increased traffic, but never are. The list is long, and there doesn’t seem to be a plan to address these issues.

If you visited Hawaii after Covid, did you see a lack of infrastructure to meet the higher demand for tourism?

As noted in our articles and your comments, Hawaii travel costs are simply through the roof.

As a result, how much visitors spend continues to climb out of necessity. In April, overall visitor spending was up 8% compared with last year’s period and up 31% compared with 2019. That even as visitors try to put the brakes on Hawaii vacation costs. But west coast visitors changed it up and spent 7.1% less in April than last year simply by pulling back.

We don’t think those state-provided numbers even tell the whole picture. Case in point: One of BOH’s editors needs to go to a business meeting in Kapolei on Oahu. There are three hotels to choose from, with the least expensive being Hampton Inn. The lowest rate for the Hampton Inn, including all taxes and fees, was over $500 a night! That’s insulting.

Changed Visitor Habits Crush Hawaii Travel Outlook

Apr 2023 - HL

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45 thoughts on “Key Hawaii Travel Market Drops Unexpectedly | Is That A Good Thing?”

  1. My family no longer considers Maui in our future vacation plans. 3 weeks on Maui in March of this year showed us how everything had increased past our wildest dreams. We will stay on the mainland and enjoy the beaches here. Thanks for fantastic vacations in the past.

  2. There is an obvious reason for this. This is the first year I am unable to book west coast to Hawaii using Avios awards on Alaska airlines. I’m surprised no one has covered this travel topic online.

  3. I might add that the few people getting on here complaining about the “locals” should consider the many many visitors who have a wonderful interaction with the locals the encounter. The Hawaiian people are and always have been awesome people that are responsible for introducing the world to Aloha.
    As the saying goes…if you meet a jerk, you’ve met a jerk, if you meet a lot of jerks then you are the jerk. Comparing the locals as somehow lazy and “dependent on government handouts” speaks volumes about you and nothing about reality.

  4. Yogi Berra summed it up well…”nobody goes there anymore because it’s so crowded” I do know someone at an airline that said people’s booking habits noticeably changed post Covid. More passengers are now in the habit of making reservations at the last minute then before. I think that may be skewing the projections a little but the bottom line is Hawaii has to reinvent it’s tourism industry somewhat as the post Covid boom proved.

  5. Aloha Rob+Jeff, So as this thread continues, more and more people are coming back from their vacations over there feeling very dissatisfied and disappointed. It’s going to be felt by the economy and the locals who depend on tourists for their jobs. It looks to be a low travel destination for many people. Especially long time returnees. It will be interesting to see how the new tourist board markets the islands as a choice destination to visit. Hope all is well with you both. Have a great summer.I do give thanks for my Hawaiian miles although I am being careful spending them for a trip there. Warm regards.

  6. Maui will not get another dime from this family.
    Just got back from our 2 week vacation at the Whaler.
    To many new charges and new tax’s along with outrageous prices.
    My husband and myself loved Maui.
    Our favorite vacation Spot.
    Not anymore.

  7. We have a timeshare in Princeville. Our family has gone to Hawaii yearly since 1994. We will be there again in June. If we had not booked units and all of us hadn’t coordinated the dates we probably would just chuck it this year. We are paying more than we have ever paid to fly from LAX to Kauai. The flights and flight times are awful,the flight options are confusing. Our flight times have been changed twice requiring lengthy calls to rebook different flights. Rental cars are still steep. Excursions are so outrageously high. We will all have fun together bbqing our own meals, making our own drinks, hanging at the pool,beach,and hiking. No yearly sunset sail, or must do everytime we go excursions for us this year!

  8. Hawaii hotel and condo lodging has priced itself out of reason for the repeat west coast FIT visitor.
    International travel is expensive but currently more competitive and exotic than getting ripped-off by lodging operators trying to recoup pandemic losses in one year.
    -Paul R., CA resident.
    110 Hawaii r/t trips for business/pleasure

    1. Those here saying that the condo owner’s are trying to “recoup pandemic losses in one year”…I don’t really think that’s reason. I think they started raising their prices to compensate for the rise in inflation, the government raising the property tax rate for condo owners (they and timeshares pay a higher rate than everyone else, including hotels), and other pressures.

      People are paying the prices, so I don’t see it as “greedflation”. It’s simply what the market will bear. Many condo owners are just mom-and-pop operations trying to hold onto their properties, or generate much-needed retirement income. They are not Evil Corporations – look towards the hotels to find that.

  9. I enjoy reading Beat of Hawaii greatly. It is not surprising that travel is falling off from the West coast and Eastward, there is an emigration of families, and people with disposable income, out of the West Coast states to FL, TX, TN, NC,SC, etc.. Also the purchasing power of the dollar not just in Hawaii has diminished almost 35%-40% since the 2020 lockdowns and trillions of currency was created and Introduced (about 40% of currency in circulation today was created and introduced as Federal stimuli payments since 2020). Also energy/fuel in have quadrupled, worldwide, thus travel from the West Coast to Hawaii naturally will fall and lodging rates will permanently increase. VTY


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