Lackluster visitor arrivals trigger new concern for tourism-dependent businesses

Beautiful sunsets, the surf and the sand are still draws for visitors to Hawaii, but new statistics show that their numbers are declining at a faster rate than
Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 9:55 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 27, 2022 at 4:55 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Sunsets, surf and sand are still draws for visitors to Hawaii, but new statistics show their numbers are lower than usual for this time of year.

That’s a big concern for those in the tourism industry, such as Carey Johnson, who runs Custom Island Tours.

“We have four tour vans, I have six drivers,” she said. “So we can possibly be doing four tours a day, but right now we’re averaging less than one tour a day.”

According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, visitor arrivals so far this month are nearly triple what they were a year ago but they’re still far below pre-pandemic levels.

“This is normally a slow time after Christmas, but the decline right now is steeper than normal,” Johnson said.

What seems to be behind the drop?

“Personally, I guess it would be the economy,” said resident Steve Taylor. “The prices are getting higher, inflation is going up, and maybe people don’t like all the restrictions.”

Some also say it’s a challenge for visitors to go through the Safe Travels Program, which requires testing or vaccination, and even more work if they’re coming from a foreign country.

“It’s kind of complicated,” said Cesar Moya, of Ecuador.

“You can do it if you have everything like your passport, your visa, your COVID vaccination card and everything else, but it’s still a lot of paperwork that you have to submit.”

Gov. David Ige mentioned tourism just once in his final State of the State address on Monday, emphasizing the fight against the virus.

“The fact is that keeping us safe — and making Hawaii a safe place to visit — is an essential step to restoring our visitor industry, reviving our small businesses and re-energizing our economy,” the governor said.

The HTA is also going to this year’s Legislature, seeking money from the state general fund after lawmakers slashed its budget by 24% last year.

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