Rising Costs Continue To Drive Down Hawaii Visitors

Rising Costs Continue To Drive Down Hawaii Visitors

The Japanese are very slowly coming back but spending much less. Decreased domestic arrivals and spending on Maui continue to drag the state down. And where are the new visitors to Hawaii? One thing for certain, the higher cost of accommodations, up to 70% more, is continuing to send people elsewhere. And you’ve said as much in thousands of comments.

Last month, the Hawaii tourism industry faced a mix of challenges, with domestic visitor numbers more closely reflecting economic changes. Insights from the state’s Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT) February 2024 report paints a clear picture of Hawaii’s tourism lagging recovery.

Hawaii residents and BOH regular Justin expressed his concerns well. “The long and the short of it is simple: People have found other places to go where their money travels further and they perceive being treated more warmly. I cannot get friends to come visit us on island and the two reasons I almost always hear are those two above. I will then see them post of social media being in Mexico or the Dominican or other places around the Caribbean. We’re slowly killing the golden goose with no alternate plans for income here.”

Maui was the only island that did not see an increase in visitor numbers or spending. And while all the other islands did, the increase was small, suggesting that typical return guests to Maui are mostly not returning to Hawaii yet.

Domestic visitor trend has been down since August.

Despite a moderate stream of visitors arriving in the Hawaiian Islands, digging further beneath the surface, concerning shifts in average daily census and spending patterns reveal the changing nature of Hawaii’s tourism market.

The U.S. West and U.S. East regions are critical to Hawaii’s tourism industry.

In the midst of fast-changing travel preferences, efforts to attract visitors from these markets should continue amidst shifting circumstances if Hawaii is to be successful in retaining visitors. Your comments make clear that Hawaii will need to work harder to keep you island vacation focused instead of looking farther afield.

At the same time, small signs of optimism emerged from the state regarding the Japanese market, making Japan-vacationing visiting Governor Green happy, who was in Japan this month seeking to deepen ties with Japan and capitalize on opportunities for mutual economic growth. That said, Japanese visitor spending remains down, reflecting cautious spending behavior.

Governor Green’s DBEDT Director, James Kunane Tokioka, acknowledged the challenges facing Hawaii’s tourism industry. However, in the obvious uncertainty, he believes a spirit of collaboration persists in Hawaii travel, driving efforts towards sustainable growth and resilience.

Visitor behavior is worth noting.

First, “Most U.S. West visitors in February 2024 had been to Hawaii before (84.0%) while 16.0 percent were first-time visitors. We continue to believe that retaining customers (Hawaii visitors) is far easier than attracting new ones.”

That concept appears to be missing in the thinking of the HTA and Hawaii’s governor, neither of which have, to our knowledge, ever addressed the value of return visitors.

Where did Hawaii visitors stay in February?

“In terms of accommodations, 51.5 percent of U.S. West visitors (the most prolific of all Hawaii visitors) in February 2024 stayed in hotels, 16.4 percent stayed in condominiums, 13.5 percent stayed with friends and relatives, 12.5 percent stayed in rental homes, and 8.5 percent stayed in timeshares.”

With Hawaii hotel and vacation rental accommodations privately owned and outside the state’s purview, what would you like to see Hawaii do to win back your visitor business?


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46 thoughts on “Rising Costs Continue To Drive Down Hawaii Visitors”

  1. US West Coaster Here –

    Hawaii has to stop looking at us as just $$$ and nickel and diming for everything. OK….hawaii can be beautiful, but lots of the world is more beautiful. Those places are lower cost and actually welcoming. Europe, Carribean, Asia is far cheaper and provides better value.

    Hawaii has destroyed their image on playing identity politics and blaming everyone else for the problems. Proper management and fiscal responsibility would have solved a lot of these problems.

    For example, Bonaire – 1 week of luxury accommodations …week of diving and 4×4 …. 730USD all in. No expectation of ridiculous tipping or surprise fees everywhere. Not to mention they are encouraging and helpful to people visiting……

  2. Social media is damaging the Aloha image. Some locals respond with hostility to visitor inquires. The fire seems to have triggered anti-visitor sentiment. It is difficult to get potential guests to visit a location that is perceived to be xenophobic when there are many other locations that are welcoming and less expensive.

  3. Lived in Maui 3 times, and have been coming for over 25 years. I came with family last Thanksgiving…things have changed. This local anger against visitors has been slowly going downhill over the years and the fire has brought it out to another level. My friends that still live there agree with me. Fear of education, training, life skills, and “what I call fake” Aloha is the norm. So, I will continue to visit the Big Island, where several friends have moved and Maui is off the travel list.

    1. I couldn’t agree more, I’ve been visiting for over 10 years and things have gone down every time but the place is beautiful and accept it for what it is and make the best of it. Save $$ where you can, mainly by Not staying in hotels.

  4. Governor Green, are you listening?

    The tourism industry in Hawaii cannot survive by pricing out the average traveler and his/her traveling companion(s).

    Do not hold your breath waiting for the Japanese to come back. Their economy is in a depression while we suffer an inflation. Food and lodging costs in Japan are just about 65% less than here in Hawaii! Only a very wealthy Japanese person can consider a return to the islands.

    Just like Turo is a cost-efficient alternative to the mainland car rental companies, non-hotel accommodations remain the most cost-effective accommodation choice. Forget Muffi and the hotel industry and support local ownership and hospitality.


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