Pandemic Continues to Ravage Hawai‘i Tourism Numbers

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Hawai‘i Tourism Authority. PC: HTA

October saw a slight uptick in returning visitors to Hawai‘i with the implementation of the state’s pre-travel testing program, but the numbers remained bleak for an economy heavily reliant on tourism due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In October 2020, visitor arrivals to Hawai‘i decreased by 90.4% compared to a year ago, according to preliminary statistics released by the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority’s (HTA) Tourism Research Division.

On Oct. 15, the state launched its Safe Travels Program, allowing passengers arriving from
out-of-state and traveling interisland to bypass the 14-day quarantine with a valid negative COVID-19 test result from a Trusted Testing and Travel Partner. As a result, slightly more travelers arrived in Hawai‘i than in previous months, when testing was not an option to bypass the trans-Pacific quarantine requirement that began on March 26.


Also in October, the County of Maui issued a stay-at-home order for all individuals on Lana‘i that began on Oct. 27. In addition, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continued to enforce the “No Sail Order” on all cruise ships.

Hotels and resorts began slowly reopening through late October and into November on the Big Island. Top members of the Kohala Coast Resort Association believe that November and December numbers will improve based on two factors:

  • Travel quarantine options will presumably be available for each of those entire months.
  • The festive season should bring with it an uptick in visitor traffic, especially as resorts are now open to accommodate those for whom Hawai‘i travel is a holiday tradition.

Vaccines from three major pharmaceutical companies have now been found over 90% effective in Phase 3 human trials, and health officials believe the first vaccinations could be administered across the United States by as early as mid- or late-December.


A significantly vaccinated portion of the population has long been seen as the beginning for the revitalization of tourism in Hawai‘i.

The Numbers

During October 2020, a total of 76,613 visitors traveled to Hawai‘i by air service, compared to 796,191 visitors who came by air service and cruise ships in October 2019.


Most of the visitors were from US West (53,396, -84.9%) and US East (19,582, -86.8%). Only 183 visitors came from Japan (-99.9%) and 389 came from Canada (-98.8%). There were 3,064 visitors from All Other International Markets (-97.1%). Many of these visitors were from Guam, and a small number of visitors were from the Philippines, Other Asia, Europe, Latin America, Oceania, and the Pacific Islands. Total visitor days declined 81.7% compared to October of last year.

A total of 223,353 trans-Pacific air seats serviced the Hawaiian Islands in October, down 79.0% from a year ago. There were no direct flights or scheduled seats from Canada, Oceania, and Other Asia, and fewer scheduled seats from Japan (-98.6%), US East (-74.3%), US West (-72.5%), and Other countries (-54.6%) compared to a year ago.

Year-to-Date 2020

In the first 10 months of 2020, total visitor arrivals dropped 73.4% to 2,296,622 visitors, with significantly fewer arrivals by air service (-73.4% to 2,266,831) and by cruise ships (-74.2% to 29,792) compared to the same period a year ago. Total visitor days fell 68.6%.

Year-to-date, visitor arrivals by air service decreased from US West (-73.2% to 1,016,948), US East (-70.5% to 564,318), Japan (-77.5% to 294,830), Canada (-63.2% to 156,565) and All Other International Markets (-78.0% to 234,168).

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