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Hawaii’s Tourism Woes Unfold: Unfazed Downturn Continues

by Staff

For the past five months and counting, Hawaii visitor arrivals have continued their downtrend trend following the tragic Lahaina fire.

While West Maui represents only 15% of the entire island of Maui, the loss to tourism in that area is felt throughout the entire state. In December, total visitor arrivals to the Hawaiian Islands from all-important west coast visitors were down 5.1%, while east coast visitors were down 8.4%.

These were down only slightly in December 2023, compared to 2022, according to the state’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT). 

“The data shows reason for optimism that travel to Hawaii is continuing to recover since the pandemic and since the Maui wildfires. While the decision to reopen West Maui to visitors was difficult, the numbers show that visitor industry revenue is helping the people of Maui.”

Governor Josh Green, M.D.

It’s no surprise that Hawaii visitors are still spending more overall.

While the state shows visitor spending has been down the past five months, when you look at the year overall, visitors have been spending more.

Hawaii visitor spending during 2023 increased over 2022. We suspect that’s seen as good news by the state. But visitors and residents who travel are being hit right at the wallet. We recently planned a trip to Maui and, even with our Kamaaina (resident) discount, were surprised at the nightly rates of Maui hotels, with many hovering at $600 or more.

Hawaii visitor spending in 2023 was $20.78 billion, which “compared to $19.70 billion (+5.5%) in 2022 and $17.72 billion (+17.3%) in 2019,” according to the state. For the year, visitor numbers increased by 4.4 percent but declined by 7.1 percent compared to 2019.

Keep an eye on what becomes of Hawaii’s prized return visitors.

The state shows that “Most U.S. West visitors in December 2023 had been to Hawaii before (84.5%) while 15.5 percent were first-time visitors.” Given the sentiment shared in your comments, that is an important statistic to pay attention to. Remember, too, that December tends to have among the greatest number of return visitors who often pay for their Hawaii vacations a full year in advance.

Island by island Hawaii visitor numbers and spending.

Oahu visitors: Up 6.0% in December compared with 2022 but -7.9% compared with 2019. Spending +1.3% compared with 2022 and +13.7% compared with 2019.

Maui visitors: -24.8% in December compared with 2022 and -28.7% in 2019. Spending was -20.4% compared with 2022 and -9.5% compared with 2019.

Kauai visitors: -1.5% in December compared with 2022 and -3.3% in 2019. Spending was +32.9% compared with 2022 and +51.9% compared with December 2019.

Big Island visitors: +2.7% in December compared with 2022 and -8.3% in December 2019.  Spending was +4.9% compared with 2022 and +17.9% compared with December 2019.

Please tell us your thoughts on the downturn in Hawaii visitors and an uptick in spending.

Department-of-Business-Economic-Development-Tourism-_-December-2023-Marked-the-Fifth-Consecutive-Month-with-Declining-Visitor-Expenditures

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