April Visitor Arrivals Approached 60% of Pre-Pandemic Totals
Visitor arrivals are outpacing what even industry experts held as their highest hopes for tourism’s return to the Hawaiian Islands in 2021.
According to preliminary statistics released by the Hawai´i Tourism Authority (HTA), a total of 484,071 visitors arrived by air service to the Hawaiian Islands in April 2021, compared to only 4,564 visitors who traveled to Hawai´i in April 2020 when tourism to the islands virtually ceased due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Total spending for visitors arriving in April 2021 was $811.4 million.
Prior to the pandemic, Hawai´i experienced record-level visitor expenditures and arrivals in 2019, as well as in the first two months of 2020. When compared to 2019, visitor arrivals in April 2021 were down 43.0 percent. That year, the arrival count was 849,397 visitors (air and cruise), and visitor spending was down 38.4 percent from the $1.32 billion spent in April 2019.
April 2020 was the first full month of travel restrictions to keep the community safe, following the State of Hawaii’s 14-day mandatory travel quarantine for all passengers (effective March 26, 2020). During this time, exemptions included travel for essential reasons like work or health care. The state’s four counties enforced strict stay-at-home orders and curfews in April. Nearly all trans-Pacific flights and interisland flights were cancelled. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) enforced a “No Sail Order” on all cruise ships. On Oct. 15, 2020, the State initiated the Safe Travels program, which then allowed trans-Pacific travelers to bypass the quarantine if they had a valid negative test for COVID-19.
A year later in April 2021, the Safe Travels program was still underway, with most passengers arriving from out-of-state and traveling inter-county able to bypass the State’s mandatory 10-day self-quarantine with a valid negative COVID-19 NAAT test result from a Trusted Testing Partner prior to departure. Kaua´i County rejoined the Safe Travels program on April 5, 2021. The counties of Hawai´i, Maui and Kalawao (Moloka‘i) also had a partial quarantine in place in April. The CDC continued reduced restrictions through a “Conditional Sail Order” on all cruise ships.
In April 2021, 352,147 visitors (versus 3,016 visitors in April 2020) arrived from the U.S. West and 119,189 visitors (versus 1,229 in April 2020) were from the U.S. East. In addition, 1,367 visitors (versus 13 visitors in April 2020) came from Japan and 527 visitors (versus nine visitors in April 2020) were from Canada. There were 10,842 visitors (versus 298 in April 2020) from All Other International Markets. 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.
U.S. West visitors spent $573.2 million. U.S. East visitors spent $233.7 million. Visitors from Japan spent $4.5 million. Visitor spending data from other markets were not available.
A total of 3,614 trans-Pacific flights serviced the Hawaiian Islands in April, compared to 426 flights a year ago. This represented a total of 727,980 air seats, up from 95,985 seats. There were significantly more scheduled seats from U.S. West (623,611, +703.7%) and U.S. East (80,172, +3,646.4%). Air service from Japan (8,798 seats, +1,082.5%), Other Asia (2,224 seats, +920.2%) and Canada (716 seats, none in April 2020) remained limited but there were more scheduled seats compared to a year ago. There continued to be no direct air service from Oceania. Scheduled seats from Other countries (Guam, Manila, Majuro) decreased (8,589, -10.4%).
For the first four months of 2021, total visitor spending was $2.33 billion. U.S. West visitors spent $1.56 billion, U.S. East visitors spent $737.5 million and visitors from Japan spent $15.5 million. Available data for Canada showed $17.2 million in visitor spending in the first two months of 2021.
A total of 1,331,115 visitors arrived in the first four months of 2021, down 37.5 percent compared to the same period a year ago. There were more visitors from U.S. West (925,145, +1.5%) but fewer visitors from U.S. East (367,038, -28.8%), Japan (4,277, -98.5%), Canada (4,243, -97.3%) and All Other International Markets (30,412, -86.4%). Additionally, cruise ship activities continued to be suspended in 2021. In comparison, 29,792 visitors came by cruise ships in the first few months of 2020, prior to the CDC’s “No Sail Order.”
Total visitor arrivals decreased 60.6 percent when compared to year-to-date April 2019 arrivals of 3,376,675 visitors (air and cruise). Visitor spending declined by 60.0 percent from the $5.81 billion spent in the first four months of 2019.