Maui News

Hawaiʻi Visitor Spending in September 2021 Down 15.4% from Pre-Pandemic Levels

October 28, 2021, 10:30 AM HST
* Updated October 28, 10:35 AM
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In September 2021, 505,861 visitors arrived by air service to the Hawaiian Islands, down 31.3% from all visitors arriving by air and cruise ships in September 2019. Photo Credit: Cammy Clark

Tourists to the Hawaiian Islands in September 2021 spent $1.05 billion, 15.4% less than visitors spent prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic in September 2019, according to preliminary visitor statistics released by the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT).

Just before the pandemic led to Hawaii’s quarantine requirements for travelers in March 2020, the State of Hawaiʻi was experiencing record-level visitor expenditures and arrivals in 2019 and in the first two months of 2020. Tourists spent $1.25 billion in September 2019.

The number of visitors arriving in Hawaiʻi in September 2021 also is down, by 31.3%, versus two years earlier. There were 505,861 visitors arrived by air service to the Hawaiian Islands, primarily from the US mainland, in September 2021. In comparison, only 18,409 visitors arrived by air in September 2020 and 736,155 visitors arrived by air and by cruise ships in September 2019.

On August 23, 2021, Hawaiʻi Gov. David Ige urged travelers to curtail non-essential travel until the end of October 2021 due to a surge in Delta variant cases that has overburdened the state’s health care facilities and resources.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continued to enforce restrictions on cruise ships through a “Conditional Sail Order”, a phased approach for the resumption of passenger cruises to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 onboard.

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“The late summer surge of the delta variant continued to depress visitor spending and visitor arrivals in September, which had a negative impact on our state’s economy and more importantly, the health of our residents,” Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority President and CEO John De Fries said in a statement. “However, despite the anticipated slowdown in fall travel we were encouraged to see the positive results from the US West and US East markets, knowing how visitor spending translates into continued support for jobs in our community.”

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Visitor statistics:

  • The average daily census was 154,355 visitors in September 2021, compared to 20,472 in September 2020 and 206,169 in September 2019.
  • 338,680 visitors arrived from the US West in September 2021, a 10.7% increase from September 2019. They spent $656.3 million in September 2021, 40.8% more than two years ago. Attributing to this increase was a 25% increase in average daily visitor spending.
  • 145,626 visitors arrived from the US East in September 2021, a 9.3% increase from September 2019. They spent $341 million in September 2021, an 18% increase from two years ago.
  • 1,769 visitors came from Japan in September 2021, down 98.8% from the 143,928 in September 2019. Visitors from Japan spent just $6.2 million in September 2021 compared to $196.5 million in September 2019.
  • 4,326 visitors arrived from Canada in September 2021, an 80.2% decline from the 21,928 visitors in September 2019. Visitors from Canada spent $12.7 million in September 2021 compared to $40.5 million (-68.8%) in September 2019.
  • 15,460 visitors arrived from All Other International Markets in September 2021. These visitors were from Guam, Other Asia, Europe, Latin America, Oceania, Philippines and Pacific Islands. In comparison, there were 113,192 visitors (-86.3%) in September 2019. 
  • 4,629 trans-Pacific flights and 962,659 seats served the Hawaiian Islands in September 2021, compared to only 711 flights and 156,220 seats in September 2020; and 4,533 flights and 1,012,883 seats in September 2019. 

Year-to-date 2021:

Through the first nine months of 2021, total visitor spending was $9.03 billion, a 31.1% decrease from the $13.3 billion spent through the first nine months of 2019.

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A total of 4,859,655 visitors (+119.8%) arrived in the first nine months of 2021, double the arrival count from a year ago. But total visitor arrivals were down 37.9% compared to the 7,828,965 visitors in the first nine months of 2019.

“Over the past 18 months we have learned and done many things that collectively changed the trajectory of Hawaiʻi,” said DBEDT Director Mike McCartney in a statement. “We have shifted from fearing COVID-19 to respecting it, managing it and ultimately, living with it. Our actions to put public health before economic prosperity will start to pay dividends in the months to come.

“We now see positive signs that Hawaiʻi’s visitor economy will begin to recover at an accelerated rate as we welcome our fully vaccinated international visitors. I am optimistic that we will end 2021 stronger and enter 2022 with solid momentum for growth. It will still be challenging at times, but I am confident Hawaiʻi is ready, now more than ever, to be open for business.

To view full release and tables, click here.



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