Hawaii tourism severely impacted by COVID-19 pandemic

Hawaii’s visitor industry continues to be severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In December 2020, visitor arrivals dropped 75.2 percent compared to a year ago, according to preliminary statistics released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s (HTA) Tourism Research Division.

This past December, a total of 235,793 visitors traveled to Hawaii by air service, compared to 952,441 visitors who came by air service and cruise ships in December 2019. Most of the visitors were from the U.S. West (151,988, -63.7%) and U.S. East (71,537, -66.8%). In addition, 3,833 came from Canada (-94.0%) and 1,889 visitors came from Japan (-98.6%). There were 6,547 visitors from All Other International Markets (-93.8%). Many of these visitors were from Guam, and a small number of visitors were from Other Asia, Europe, Latin America, Oceania, Philippines and Pacific Islands. Total visitor days declined 66.9 percent compared to December 2019.

Beginning October 15, passengers arriving from out-of-state and traveling inter-county could bypass the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine with a valid negative COVID-19 NAAT test result from a Trusted Testing and Travel Partner through the state’s Safe Travels program. Effective November 24, all trans-Pacific travelers participating in the pre-travel testing program were required to have a negative test result before their departure to Hawaii, and test results would no longer be accepted once a traveler arrived in Hawaii. On December 2, Kauai County temporarily suspended its participation in the state’s Safe Travels program, making it mandatory for all travelers to Kauai to quarantine upon arrival. On December 10, the mandatory quarantine was reduced from 14 to 10 days in accordance with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines. The counties of Hawaii, Maui, and Kalawao (Molokai) also had a partial quarantine in place in December. In addition, the CDC continued to enforce the “No Sail Order” on all cruise ships.

Spending statistics for December 2020 were all from U.S. visitors. Data for visitors from other markets were not available. U.S. West visitors spent $280.4 million (-59.8%) in December, and their average daily spending was $157 per person (-12.8%). U.S. East visitors spent $170.4 million (-65.1%) and $182 per person (-16.5%) on an average daily basis.

A total of 599,440 trans-Pacific air seats serviced the Hawaiian Islands in December, a decrease of 52.2 percent from a year ago. There were no scheduled seats from Oceania, and significantly fewer scheduled seats from Other Asia (-97.9%), Japan (-93.2%), Canada (-78.3%), U.S. East (-47.7%), U.S. West (-36.4%), and Other countries (-55.4%) compared to a year ago.

Annual 2020 Statistics

Flight cancellations to the Hawaiian Islands began in February 2020, initially affecting the China market. On March 14, the CDC began enforcing the No Sail Order on cruise ships. On March 17, Hawaii Governor David Ige asked upcoming visitors to postpone their trips for at least the next 30 days. The counties also began issuing stay-at-home orders. Effective March 26, all passengers arriving from

out-of-state were required to abide by a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine. Exemptions included travel for essential reasons like work or health care. By the end of March the majority of flights to Hawaii were cancelled, and the visitor industry was severely impacted. On April 1, the mandatory self-quarantine was extended to inter-island travel and the state’s four counties enforced strict stay-at-home orders and curfews that month. Nearly all trans-Pacific flights to Hawaii were cancelled in April.

For all of 2020, total visitor arrivals declined 73.8 percent from the previous year to 2,716,195 visitors. There were significantly fewer arrivals by air service (-73.8% to 2,686,403). Arrivals by cruise ships (-79.2% to 29,792) also decreased considerably, as cruise ships were operating only for the first few months of the year. Total visitor days fell 68.2 percent.

In 2020, visitor arrivals by air service decreased sharply from U.S. West (-71.6% to 1,306,388), U.S. East (-70.3% to 676,061), Japan (-81.1% to 297,243), Canada (-70.2% to 161,201) and All Other International Markets (-80.4% to 245,510).

Other Highlights:

U.S. West: In December 2020, 118,332 visitors arrived from the Pacific region compared to 336,689 visitors a year ago, and 33,563 visitors came from the Mountain region compared to 77,819 a year ago. For all of 2020, visitor arrivals decreased considerably from both the Pacific (-72.6% to 999,075) and Mountain (-67.3% to 286,731) regions versus 2019.

California residents returning from out-of-state in December were recommended to quarantine for 14 days. San Francisco also ordered a mandatory, 10-day quarantine for travelers arriving from outside the nine-county Bay Area region. For Oregon, residents returning from other states or countries for non-essential travel were asked to self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival. The quarantine period could be shortened if they did not have any symptoms after 10 days, or after seven days if they had a negative test within 48 hours before ending quarantine. In Washington, a 14-day quarantine was recommended for returning residents, and residents were asked to stay close to home.

U.S. East: Of the 71,537 U.S. East visitors in December, the majority were from the South Atlantic (-65.9% to 16,194), West South Central (-56.9% to 15,285) and East North Central (-68.5% to 14,698) regions. For all of 2020, visitor arrivals declined significantly from all regions. The three largest regions, East North Central (-67.9% to 138,999), South Atlantic (-73.3% to 133,564) and West South Central (72.2% to 114,145) saw sharp decreases compared to 2019.

In New York, returning residents in December were allowed to “test out” of the mandatory 10-day quarantine. Returning residents were required to obtain a COVID-19 test within three days of departure and also quarantine for three days. On the fourth day of their quarantine, the traveler had to obtain another COVID-19 test. If both tests came back negative, the traveler could exit quarantine early upon receipt of the second negative diagnostic test.

Japan: In December, 1,889 visitors arrived from Japan compared to 136,635 visitors a year ago. Of the 1,889 visitors, 1,799 arrived on international flights from Japan and 90 came on domestic flights. For all of 2020, arrivals dropped 81.1 percent to 297,243 visitors. Japanese nationals returning from abroad were required to quarantine for 14 days. The growing global spread of COVID-19 led to increased travel restrictions effective December 28 through January 2021. During this time, Japan residents with VISA-arranged short-term, outbound business trips were no longer exempt from the 14-day quarantine.

Canada: In December, 3,833 visitors arrived from Canada compared to 64,182 visitors a year ago. Direct flights from Canada resumed in December and brought 2,964 visitors. The remaining 869 visitors arrived on domestic flights. For all of 2020, arrivals were down 70.2 percent to 161,201 visitors. Travelers returning to Canada were required to self-isolate for 14 days.