Hawaii At The Crossroads With Tourism

State Proclaims Hawaii Visitor Decline

The Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) has this morning released preliminary statistics revealing a decline in both total visitor arrivals and spending in May 2024 compared to the same month last year. And it goes further than that.

In May 2024, Hawaii saw 763,260 visitors, marking a significant 4.8% decrease from May 2023. Visitor spending also declined, dropping 4.0% to $1.62 billion.

The only bright light in that data is that total visitor arrivals in May 2024 represent a 90.1% recovery compared to May 2019, and spending was notably higher than in May 2019, which saw $1.41 billion in spending, due to extremely high costs, especially in Hawaii hotels.

Hawaii visitor arrivals.

Almost all of Hawaii’s visitors, 757,841, arrived by air, with those from the U.S. West and U.S. East being the primary origination points. This is a dip from the 790,494 air arrivals in May 2023. The cruise ship sector experienced a more dramatic drop, with just 5,420 visitors arriving via out-of-state cruise ships, a 51.1% decrease compared with May 2023.

Clearly, cruise ships are not making Hawaii stops a priority in an otherwise very busy industry. In a recent report on the industry, trade group CLIA said, “Cruise continues to be one of the fastest-growing and most resilient sectors of tourism.” But not in Hawaii.

Hawaii visitor spending and demographics.

Visitors from the U.S. West and U.S. East continue to be the backbone of Hawaii’s tourism industry. In May 2024, the U.S. West contributed 403,981 visitors, spending $767.9 million, while the U.S. East accounted for 209,711 visitors, with spending totaling $539.4 million. These figures represent declines from May 2023 but show significant increases compared to May 2019.

Visitors from Japan are slowly rebounding, with 46,124 arrivals in May 2024, up 35.1% from May 2023. That is far from pre-Covid numbers, however.

Canadian visitors continue to decline in terms of arrivals and spending. In May, there were 20,301 visitors from Canada, spending $44.6 million, continuing the downward trend.

Tourism’s impact on Hawaii’s economy.

Hawaii accommodation tax revenue fell by 12.9% in May 2024 compared to May 2023. DBEDT Director Jimmy Tokioka noted that the decline in visitor numbers from the U.S. and Canada, combined with the lower-than-expected recovery from Japan.

The future outlook in Hawaii travel is very cautious.

Looking ahead, the state remains cautiously optimistic. Airline seats currently scheduled to Hawaii from June through August 2024 are set to increase by 2.4% compared to the same period last year. Should those arrive full, that leaves the potential for more visitor arrivals. Beat of Hawaii is traveling around Hawaii over the next week, and we’ll report on how we see that traffic panning out.

At the same time, exorbitant costs, especially for hotels but also for activities and restaurants, appear poised to continue to offset any potential gains in the foreseeable future.

DBEDT

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18 thoughts on “State Proclaims Hawaii Visitor Decline”

  1. So many interesting comments hindering on the doom and gloom of Hawaii travel but my family and I have the opposite opinion . Born and raised on the fine beaches of New Jersey and then relocating to sunny SoCal, my only real gripe about the Aloha state is the lack of great body surfing beaches . That said our family loves Hawaii for everything else. OK airfare can be a challenge but accommodations are plentiful and you can find reasonably priced condos and apartments. My bank card works, my cell phone works, my Safeway Rewards card works. Daily activities, picnics and pool side bbq topped with shave ice makes the perfect day, only to repeat tomorrow with a different activity. Been to every island but keep returning to Kauai. See you in February

  2. Our local government is not the brightest. We’ve all known it for years and it will become more and more obvious as tourism dies down and economy gets scorched.

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  3. Nice picture of one of the fake beaches……probably kohola lagoon! People aren’t willing to pay upwards of $1,000 a night to stay next to a fake beach anymore and more and more discerning tourists are discovering that…..Hawaii is “way over priced” for what you get!

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  4. Thank you for your information. Maui is our main concern and Mayor Bissen’s remarks are difficult to listen to. We need to get on a better page than calling STR owners foreigners. We all want what’s best for Maui. It’s not a sovereign nation. It’s a state that needs help from others.

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    1. Maybe we should listen to the mayor, and take his words at face value. When he calls str owners “foreigners”, he is telling us how he sees things.

      Is it important / relevant to know the race & geographic location of str owners? He seems to think so. But he does not care about the ownership of hotels & timeshares. Interesting.

      He is saying what is important to him. Who is he trying to reach by dividing us along racial lines? Will it help increase affordable housing? – most people say it won’t.

      If his message prevails, what will maui look like in 1, 5, 10 years?

      5
  5. They asked for it and now they got it. Hope they’re happy. Room rates almost doubled, outrageous resort fees and totally over priced rental cars. Do they realize that many of us contributed money to local causes & groups after the fire. Really loved seeing the “Be Respectful” signs as I drove to our accomodations. Wow!

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  6. Becoming very concerning.. We have been visiting Hawaii 30 years +many time 2 times/year. Starting to think we should “diversify” our warm weather travel. Hope not – wonderful State, great people, etc. Hope the political whiz kids and figure out what is long-term good for their State. We remain positive.

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    1. CLB;

      I’m of the same mind. I’m going on 25 years now. I have already booked for next year, trying to stay positive. Hoping it somehow it will all work out for the best.

      MJ

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    1. Doing great here on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Of course we didn’t go full retard from 2020 onward.

      So glad I left that clown State in the middle of the Pacific.

      Now, how about those windmills they want to build in the channel.

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  7. Still busy killing the “Golden Goose” I see… The real test here is not in the number of visitor arrivals but when the major corporations operating on the island release their yearly financial reports. We will be able to see then if their “less is more” strategy of higher prices with fewer visitors and the commensurate reduction in staffing, operating, and maintenance costs is working. If so Winnahs! Except for those pesky working people of Hawaii and the state itself in terms of lost revenue…

    Best Regards

    11
  8. So all going according to plan, correct?

    That may sound sarcastic, but I’m very serious.

    Overtourism is an oft-discussed and highly-publicized concern on the islands, and not just a concern of the anti-business rabble-rousers. The government, UHERO, the HTA, and others with clout have made no qualms about publicly implementing anything and everything to try to reduce tourism, from adding fees, lecturing visitors on how to behave before they arrive, implementing fees for parking and using the beach, and villainizing short-term rentals. The efforts are working. Time to uncork the champagne!

    I was accused a couple of weeks ago of being sarcastic. In this post, I am not being sarcastic.

    Therefore, instead of pretending that this is a problem, perhaps we need an article that congratulates the successful effort. It really has been an impressive, effective strategy.

    No more mixed messages. Maybe we have achieved the proper level of visitors to our islands.

    11
  9. May 2024; We were in Honolulu -for a week [we made a mistake to book DDTREE- s***/rooms/ had to upgrade} – rained every day – not bad- not much beach/snorkeling time. Then Maui @ our TimeShare- a lot of non-vacationers and not Hawai’ians for a week-
    it was just —OK. &
    4 days at a local friends Home, {Lahaina area}.
    The “vibe” was all wrong- we had booked for a return in September.
    we Just cancelled………..

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  10. Hawai’i has done its best to pile on restrictions, taxes and fees, not to mention the prevailing anti tourism attitude expressed by everyone, from the governor and mayor on down the list.Why are they surprised that tourists are going elsewhere?

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    1. Really don’t think they are surprised. It’s a feature not a bug. Somehow they think their plan will ultimately succeed. Not exactly as currently proposed surely but some watered down variant.

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    2. …meanwhile the Hilton is completing its 27 acre Time Share project North Kihei. For decades I’ve felt that was the perfect property for affordable housing. North Kihei has a local neighborhood feel already. South Kihei is where tourists have been going for decades. If you’re going to rezone a property that 27 acre undeveloped site was a missed opportunity. Curious how much of a campaign contribution Hilton made…and to what politicians?

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