There’s no doubt about it. This is one wild ride. Case in point, Hawaii has been hitting tourism numbers never seen before. Since June, domestic visitor arrivals have been at an all-time high, according to the state’s visitor statistics. Wow! The only thing not breaking records is international arrivals.
Jenn’s comment Thursday from her vacation on the Big Island seemed to sum things up well. She said: “Be kind to the people who live here and are doing their best to make sure you enjoy your vacation. They have gone from zero to 100 overnight. They’re playing catch-up too.”
You’ll find many opinions on Hawaii’s tourism boom in comments left on our website. But first, here are our thoughts. We look forward to yours too, whether you are in Hawaii or on the mainland.
Also below is a fascinating (at least to us) chronology of how Covid unfolded in Hawaii, as seen in some key articles we wrote to which you responded with more than 6,000 comments.
Visitors have and always will be a big part of Hawaii and contribute to its energy.
Being without visitors had its sad part and devastated the economy. It also felt strange driving through a shuttered Hanalei. We love seeing the excitement and wonder you feel being in Hawaii, and we missed that. Living in a travel economy, however, doesn’t come without challenges.
Many Hawaii residents came to enjoy the quiet time – the lull in tourism that we’ve only ever seen once before, and that was in 2008. This pause was far longer and more pronounced. Others may disagree that they enjoyed it.
And at the same time, tourism is essential to Hawaii. It employs directly or indirectly the majority of people in the state and is the financial engine on which the islands survive.
When things first shut down in late March 2020, it felt like Hawaii went into shock.
We had a nightly curfew on Kauai. There were very few local cars even on the streets, let alone visitors. You could get stopped in an hours-long roadblock, even going to the grocery store. We were all basically at home and unsure what would happen next. It was a scary time here.
What followed was a segment of time that felt very different. And we liked some of it.
Once we could move about the island more freely, which seemed to start around May of last year, we could again go to beaches and find few people, if any, on them. Your editors went to Hanalei Bay innumerable times. We also hiked on trails that we had all to ourselves. The first time back at the beach, however, there was National Guard stationed there. We were told in no uncertain terms that while we could swim in the ocean, we were not allowed to linger on the sand other than to drop our towels. But within a couple of weeks, that all changed, and people were on the sand too and enjoying the beaches in a normally unimaginable way.
We became accustomed to there being no visitors.
With that, there were virtually no rental cars on the roads, and there was no traffic. The sound of jets flying between islands and to and from the mainland came to a near-complete silence. There was also no income for many here, and that, of course, wasn’t good.
March 2021: the whole thing went from Zero to 💯 as Hawaii travel rebounded suddenly.
Starting just over three months ago, a shift so dramatic that we couldn’t envision it commmenced. Suddenly, people were ready to travel again. The Safe Travels program made that possible in part, albeit a somewhat complicated process to follow. And there were signs that a vaccine passport of some kind would follow soon, which it did (effective July 8). Suddenly there were rental cars again, everywhere, and traffic. And there were visitors at restaurants, and at farmers markets, and at Costco, on the beach, and everywhere else. There were foreign languages, and some people were unwilling to wear masks (which was not a problem before). And visitors seemed to be somehow foreign and at times scary. And the visitors that returned didn’t seem as friendly as before; frankly, maybe we weren’t either. Some visitors seemed to have a vengeance about travel. After all, they too had been cooped up with this craziness for a year and were anxious to get traveling.
We had finally become accustomed to being stranded on the island for a year, and then yet another big shift happened, this one just as fast or faster than the shutdown. Hawaii travel was on.
The Hawaii Covid chronology as we reported it, and you responded in more than 6,000 comments.
On March 25, 2020, we reported on the Hawaii travel ban (146 comments), as Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines shut down Hawaii operations other than “essential service.” We said at the time: We are still trying to absorb all of the changes taking place so rapidly. The island state of Hawaii is a fragile environment, and the best Aloha visitors can share at this moment is to stay home. We need to take care of the people who live here.
In April, we wrote about How Do Hawaii Residents Honestly Feel About Tourists (700 comments). Just how polarized things had become was revealing itself.
Then in May, we penned Hawaii Public Relations Nightmare as Media Frenzy Fuels Unrest (456 comments). In that, we discussed visitors receiving fines for even just being on a beach without a permit.
By July, Hawaii’s reopening was on everyone’s mind. We wrote Hawaii Delays Reopening Amid Failed Pre-Travel Testing Plans (574 comments), as the state continued to be closed to visitors and testing remained a challenge.
The concept of alternatives arose in August, and with it came Hawaii Resort Bubbles | The Worst Idea Ever? (406 comments). Let’s just say you didn’t much like the idea, and, by the way, the concept died July 8, with the closing of the last Kauai resort bubble “plan.”
In October, things were coming together to allow visitors to return with the then-new Safe Travel program. We wrote Quarantine Ends October 15 With Testing (173 comments). As it restarted, it wasn’t all smooth sailing, as noted in Lack of Visitor Information: 5,000 Police Warnings/Citations (182 comments) and Better Have Ducks In A Row Before Travel to Hawaii (186 comments).
By November, things weren’t going well, as noted in CVS Pulls Out Of Hawaii Testing – Others Overwhelmed (331 comments). Then the big surprise was Kauai Shut Down Effective December 2 (367 comments).
Frustration continued in December with Visitors Cancel as Governor Won’t Change Rules + Who Pays Quarantine? (388 comments).
Come February, Kauai Not Reopening Soon + Resort Bubbles (524 comments) remained a hot topic.
There was another shift in plans in March of this year — Maui Adds Mandatory On-Arrival Testing (135 comments).
April saw the unveiling of Hawaii Vaccination Passports (1,947 comments). Travel reopening became an all-important topic. Together with it came a wide range of emotions.
That brings us currently to July 8, since COVID-19 testing is no longer required for those fully vaccinated in the USA. A new chapter begins in Hawaii travel. Will you be joining us?