Tourism in Hawaii continues rebound in July, despite COVID threat

Hawaii’s visitor industry continued to recover in July aided by the domestic market, which was up strong-double digits from pre-pandemic times.

Some 879,551 visitors arrived by air service to the Hawaiian Islands in July 2021, primarily from the U.S. West and U.S. East, according to preliminary visitor statistics released today by the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT).

DBEDT reported that visitor arrivals in July 2021 declined 11.6% from the July 2019 count of 995,210 visitors. In June, arrivals by air fell 16.5% from June 2019. Total spending by visitors arriving in July 2021 was $1.58 billion, down 6.8% from the $1.7 billion generated in July 2019.

The July results helped Hawaii’s year to date tourism performance continue to improve.

Through the first seven months of 2021, total visitor spending was $6.60 billion, a 37.5 %drop from the $10.55 billion spent through the first seven months of 2019.

Some 3,631,400 visitors arrived in the first seven months of 2021, which was 41.1 % lower than the 6,166,392 visitors that came to Hawaii in the first seven months of 2019.

DBEDT Director Mike McCartney said in a statement, “Hawaii’s economy was on a clear path of recovery and was gaining momentum over the first seven months of 2021.”

“These record numbers were aided by pent up consumer demand, an excess supply of aircraft,limited choices for international summer travel and an influx of federal stimulus money,” he said. “The overall rate of recovery in July was at 88 percent with very limited international arrivals (two percent).”

The sluggish return of the international market, which isn’t even close to full strength due to COVID-19 concerns and restrictions, was an impediment to Hawaii tourism’s overall recovery. However, the domestic market was on fire in July.

In July 2021, 578,629 visitors arrived from the U.S. West. That number came in 25.1% above July 2019. Visitors from the U.S. West visitors spent $961 million in July 2021, a gain of 43.5% from July 2019.

There were 272,821 visitors from the U.S. East in July 2021 — up 12 % from July 2019. Spending from U.S. East visitors rose 9.4% from July 2019 to $558.8 million last month.

July results were mixed across the islands, but to many it might have felt as busy as pre-pandemic times, especially for businesses and destinations that cater to the domestic market. Any on given day in July, there were 265,392 visitors as compared to 286,419 in July 2019. In July 2020, there were only 17,970 visitors.

Arrivals from Hawaii’s top international market, Japan, were still down 97.9% from July 2019, and sending was down 94%. There were only 2,817 visitors from Japan in July 2021, and they generated $11.2 million.

In July, only 1,999 visitors arrived from Canada, a drop of 92.6% from the 26,939 visitors that came in July 2019. Visitors from Canada spent $5.5 million, 88.9% less than the $50.1 million that they spent in July 2021.

There were only 23,285 visitors from all the other international markets in July. These visitors came to Hawaii from Guam, Other Asia, Europe, Latin America, Oceania, Philippines, and the Pacific Islands. The arrivals count was down 81.7% from the 127,510 visitors from these markets who came in July 2019.

Some 6,275 trans-Pacific flights and 1,292,738 seats served the Hawaiian Islands in July, versus 5,681 flights and 1,254,165 seats in July 2019.

McCartney said as Hawaii completes the high summer season and enters into the slower fall season, it will experience a seasonal decline in U.S. arrivals.

“During this time, we have no new projected international arrivals, so it is expected to be slower than normal for the overall market,” he said.

Uncertainty around the COVID-19 Delta variant also is expected to have a dampening effect, McCartney said.

“We expect arrivals to slow in both September and October starting after the Labor Day weekend,” he said.

McCartney said arrivals could dip during the slower period by as much as 50 percent to 70 percent of the 2019 level, and then come back.

“If we can contain and effectively control the spread of the Delta variant and it’s negative impact on our health care systems we certainly can expect travel, including international travel, to start to come back strongly in mid-November and continue to grow through the holiday travel season in December 2021 and continuing into January, February and March of 2022,” he said.

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