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Mixed Signals: Hawaii Travel Pent-Up Demand Slowing

So exactly where are we in terms of demand for Hawaii travel? There was just so much coming into spring and summer 2022 that it was virtually uncontrollable and overwhelming for visitors and residents alike. But what about fall 2022 and beyond? Believe us, everyone is wondering the very same thing, so you aren’t alone.

How much has Hawaii travel demand lessened after the incredible peaks earlier this year?

Yes, it has. And no, it hasn’t. The signals are mixed, as you’ll see below.

1. State’s data still shows arrival counts are elevated, but with a difference.

As of September 1, the state’s travel data dashboard indicates that August was up, showing 27,301 average daily domestic arrivals. That was a 14.6% increase compared with 2019 (the last comparable year). And so it has been since spring 2022. But now, something is peeking through. You can see it visually on the graph below. What you can start to see occurring is that beginning in July, some days were tracking lower in domestic visitor arrivals than pre-Covid. And that trend is continuing.

Hawaii domestic visitor arrivals

2. Anecdotal evidence in softening of Hawaii travel economy.

Here on the ground, we see fewer lines everywhere, including at the airport and to get into restaurants, fewer visitor cars on the road, and reports from business owners across the islands we are in contact with who report that demand is somewhat less overall.

BOH editor Jeff also flew to the mainland this week, which you’ll be reading about shortly. The flight he took to the mainland had only 48 seats occupied out of 147 available. At the same time, another airline’s flight which shared the same departure lounge with his flight, had only 35 passengers loaded, with a capacity of 175.

3. Reasons for the starting decline in Hawaii travel.

These are all of the reasons you likely know about. They include the ridiculous price increases in Hawaii accommodations and other expenses. On the other hand, flights to Hawaii have remained reasonably stable, at least thus far, due to increased competition. Other reasons are the sense that Hawaii doesn’t want so many visitors. Then too, there are significant reasons that don’t have much to do with Hawaii, including inflation and the concerning economic situation in the US.

4. What does that mean for visitors?

Prices may, at last, stop escalating. Beat of Hawaii’s editors will be in Honolulu for work again next month, and the price they’re paying for the same humble accommodation is up over 200% compared to pre-Covid. Fewer flights are also likely to result from decreasing demand. That could mean more route cancellations as well as flights that operate only a few days a week instead of daily. We already see that, for example, on both Hawaiian Air and Alaska Air where some flights operate only 2-4 times weekly.

One ancillary benefit of slowing travel means not waiting in long TSA lines. Editor Jeff reports he never waited in line more than five minutes at TSA this week both departing Hawaii and departing the mainland for Hawaii on his return.

5. Will visitors still choose Hawaii?

Of course, they will. Jeff witnessed the excitement of arriving visitors onboard a full flight to Hawaii yesterday. But there are constraints, including cost-consciousness at a level far more significant than right after Covid. Travelers want to obtain the best value possible for vacation dollars.

6. How can visitors benefit most?

If you have flexibility on travel seasons and times, you will be in for pleasant surprises. For peak demand seasons, however, prices will stay high and even go higher.

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12 thoughts on “Mixed Signals: Hawaii Travel Pent-Up Demand Slowing”

  1. Just booked a condo on the North Shore of Oahu for the month of July, 2023. About $9400.For the entire month! Gorgeous place, 4th floor, Oceanfront! I think this is an amazing price! Very doable.

  2. We just returned home from a 2-week stay in Hawaii. While we saw many beautiful sites, the soaring crowds and prices led us to agree we would not return.

  3. I am surprised it took so long. I have found Hawaii getting more and more expensive, as a result my family and I are are looking elsewhere to vacation. Taking my hard earned $$ elsewhere. The rental cars are horribly expensive.

    So we have decided that there are other areas of the world that we can take our hard earned dollars to.

    Thanks Hawaii, but no thanks.

  4. We fly out of Sacramento, last May our flights were full both ways on Southwest direct to Kona. We’re booked on Hawaiian for first week of October trip to Maui they’re about 80 percent full at this time.

    We were originally booked for Oahu, but last week there was a significant price drop to stay at our favorite Grand Wailea. I scrapped the Oahu trip which fortunately was all 100 percent refundable for our stay at Grand Wailea.

    I love the graph it appears we’ll be on island at the tourist low point.

    It pays to keep shopping and as per flight capacity I believe it depends on where your flying out of.

    1. Hi Richard.

      Good to hear from you again. Happy travels! Yes, Sacramento is Hawaii flight-challenged at the moment.


  5. Our Hawaiian flight from San Jose to Maui on Aug. 27 was only half full. We made it in what had to be a record time of 4 hours, 35 minutes. There were several empty rows and they let us move to where my wife had a window seat.

  6. It may not seem so now, but this is a good thing. Travel to Hawaii needs to drop; prices will stabilize. The local economy will slow down somewhat as well obviously, but people will adjust. We need to live within our means and continued growth is unsustainable. Keep the country country.

  7. I was fairly sure this back off of travel to Hawaii would start after Labor Day. First it takes a while for people to adjust to the higher rental/hotel prices. Also, the Boomer generation that had a love affair with Hawaii, is in a different place because many have retired at the start of the pandemic. That retirement also hurt our labor market because the Boomers had so much experience and it’s going to take a while for that experience to be replaced. I think people will always have a love affair with Hawaii. But, things are currently in a state of flux.

    1. Stop calling us ‘boomers’! Very insulting. My husband has not retired, he will in 2024. We will still travel,are paying for our granddaughter’s college tuition & will probably go back to Hawaii & other places after he retires.So…you are wrong. Not Every person is flat broke when they retire & many don’t just up & retire when they feel like it. Some work a little longer to make sure they can afford to have a good life.

  8. No more “overtourism”. Next come the layoffs. You heard it here first.

    All from the deliberate “quality, not quantity” mantra of the council, achieved by raising accommodations taxes, raising vacation rental taxes, adding dozens of new fees, and doing everything else in their power to stop visitors from coming. This isn’t just my opinion, I have heard the council and locals say it bluntly, over and over again, in council meetings that lasted multiple hours, and sometimes multiple days.

    So here we go. Mission accomplished. This is what the county council and all of us locals wanted, right?

    1. I’m 59yrs old and this situation has been talked about for over half of my life time. We always lived in the fear that one tourism would tank. It’s also a fact in study in 2017 that Hawaii was losing money in tourism due to the up keep and maintenance of public facilities and the excessive demand on resources. We must realize that many of our box stores and hotels and condos are owned and operated by non local residents so majority of the money leaves Hawaii. Also the benefits of tourism is only felt by a minority not the majority of residents. So maybe now we’ll seriously look at a sustainable living methods instead of monetary way of life since we are just an islands after all.

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