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Tourism Numbers Growing, Although Omicron Could Slow Acceleration, Latest Report Says

January 27, 2022, 12:00 PM HST
* Updated January 27, 10:42 AM
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Total spending by visitors who came to the islands in December 2021 was $1.66 billion, less than the pre-pandemic boom month of December 2019.

The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism released its preliminary visitor statistics for the last month of the year on Thursday, Jan. 27, which show that visitor spending is inching upwards, but still not at 2019 levels.

The figures show that 2021 surpassed 2020 number-wise in many regards.

“As long as Hawaii remains a safe destination we can regain our momentum with visitor arrivals to recover in the second quarter of this year. We remain on target to welcoming more visitors in 2022 than we did in 2021,” DBEDT Director Mike McCartney stated in a news release.

Prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic and Hawaii’s quarantine requirements for travelers, the State of Hawaii achieved record-level visitor expenditures and arrivals in 2019 and in the first two months of 2020. December 2021 visitor spending was lower compared to the $1.75 billion (-5.5%) reported for December 2019. Comparative total spending statistics for December 2020, however, are not available as data was from U.S. West and U.S. East visitors only. December 2020 spending data by visitors from other markets were unavailable because of limited fielding due to COVID-19 restrictions, although the number of visitors in 2021 bested 2020’s totals.

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A total of 753,670 visitors arrived by air service to the Hawaiian Islands in December 2021, primarily from the U.S. West and U.S. East. In comparison, 236,575 visitors (+218.6%) arrived by air in December 2020 and 952,441 visitors (-20.9%) arrived by air and by cruise ships in December 2019.

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View the full list of data and tables here.

In December 2021, domestic passengers could bypass the state’s mandatory 10-day self-quarantine if they were fully vaccinated in the United States or with a valid negative COVID-19 NAAT test result from a Trusted Testing Partner prior to their departure through the Safe Travels program. Beginning Dec. 6, passengers arriving on direct international flights were subjected to federal U.S. entry requirements, which included proof of a negative COVID-19 viral test result taken within 24 hours of travel or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days, prior to their flight.

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McCarthy said that the recent surge in new cases will likely slow the growth Hawaii had been experiencing, but the industry should recover.
“In December, the Omicron variant was detected for the first time in Hawai‘i, which was already spreading rapidly across the country,” he said. “The emergence of this variant resulted in the slowdown of arrivals that will likely continue through the first quarter of 2022.

The average daily census was 247,711 visitors in December 2021, compared to 94,688 in December 2020, versus 284,924 in December 2019.

In December 2021, 447,089 visitors arrived from the U.S. West, far greater than the 152,276 visitors (+193.6%) in December 2020 and surpassing the December 2019 count of 418,520 visitors (+6.8%). U.S. West visitors spent $875.1 million in December 2021, compared to only $280.4 million (+212.1%) in December 2020, and exceeding the $697.6 million (+25.4%) spent in December 2019. Higher average daily visitor spending ($211 per person, +16.9%) also contributed to increased U.S. West visitor expenditures compared to December 2019.

There were 228,834 visitors from the U.S. East in December 2021, compared to 71,630 visitors (+219.5%) in December 2020, and 215,358 visitors (+6.3%) in December 2019. U.S. East visitors spent $595.1 million in December 2021 compared to $170.4 million in December 2020, versus $488.3 million (+21.9%) in December 2019. Higher average daily visitor spending ($244 per person, +12.2%) and a longer length of stay (10.65 days, +2.2%) contributed to the growth in U.S. East visitor expenditures compared to December 2019.

There were 4,448 visitors from Japan in December 2021, compared to 1,724 visitors (+158.1%) in December 2020, versus 136,635 visitors (-96.7%) in December 2019. Visitors from Japan spent $14.5 million in December 2021 compared to $210.9 million (-93.1%) in December 2019.

For all of 2021, total visitor spending was $13.0 billion. This was a drop of 26.6% from the $17.7 billion spent in 2019. Comparative annual 2020 visitor spending statistics were not available.

A total of 6,777,498 visitors (+150.3%) arrived in 2021, more than double the arrival count of 2,708,258 visitors in 2020. Total visitor arrivals decreased 34.7 percent compared to 10,386,673 visitors in 2019.

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