While Maui’s arrivals in September saw a roughly 18 percent reduction compared with pre-pandemic totals, domestic trips to the Valley Isle stayed relatively strong despite forecasts that travel would take a big hit, according to data from a state report released late last month.
Overall, there were 172,770 arrivals to Maui in September, compared with 210,108 at the same time in 2019, preliminary visitor statistics from the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism said.
Domestic arrivals were down only about 5 percent to 151,783 in September, compared with 160,313 in the same timeframe in 2019, according to another DBEDT report.
Oahu in September saw the greatest percentage drop — 46 percent — compared with 2019. Kauai dipped about 17 percent and Hawaii island saw a 28 percent reduction.
Recent economic forecasts had warned of a severe drop in arrivals due to Gov. David Ige’s request in late August to halt nonessential travel amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.
“After the surge in COVID-19 cases, the number of visitors fell sharply, prompted by virus concerns, new preventive measures, and Governor Ige’s request for visitors to delay Hawaii vacations,” a University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization report said.
Maui has seen a strong rebound in arrivals, though, since travel reopened in October 2020, spurred mostly by U.S. travelers, with international visitors largely absent from recent visitor data. In fact, the Valley Isle set a new all-time domestic arrival high of 286,851 in July of this year.
Typically, Maui and Kauai counties receive more domestic travelers than Oahu and Hawaii island, which see larger amounts of international visitors.
UHERO predicts that international visitors will begin to return in 2022 and reach more than half of their pre-pandemic level by the middle of next year.
Late last month, Ige welcomed visitors back to Hawaii, saying that nonessential travel could resume starting Nov. 1.
DBEDT Director Mike McCartney said in a news release that Hawaii’s visitor economy will begin to recover at an “accelerated rate” as fully vaccinated international visitors travel to the state.
“I am optimistic that we will end 2021 stronger and enter 2022 with solid momentum for growth,” he said. “It will still be challenging at times, but I am confident Hawaii is ready, now more than ever, to be open for business.”
Visitor spending for Maui in September was $315.8 million, down 7 percent from the $339.7 million spent in September 2019, according to the DBEDT report.
For the first nine months of this year, total visitor spending was down roughly 27 percent to $2.80 billion on Maui — compared with $3.86 billion in the first nine months of 2019.
The average daily census on Maui was 46,736 visitors in September 2021 versus 52,053 visitors in September 2019.
Through the first nine months of 2021, Maui visitors were down about 28 percent to 1,671,848 compared with 2,314,113 in the first nine months of 2019.
Statewide, a total of 505,861 visitors arrived by air service in September 2021, primarily from the U.S. West and U.S. East regions. In comparison, 736,155 visitors arrived by air and by cruise ships in September 2019.
Despite the annual shoulder season after summer and into fall, where travel is anticipated to slow down, Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO John De Fries said there were hopeful signs in September data.
“We were encouraged to see the positive results from the U.S. West and U.S. East markets knowing how visitor spending translates into continued support for jobs in our community,” he said in the DBEDT news release.
* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at [email protected]