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Hawaii visitor arrivals near a record pace, even as hotel prices and airfares rise

Waikiki is looking more and more like it did in 2019. That’s when 10.4 million people visited Hawaii and spent $17.75 billion.
Published: Mar. 31, 2022 at 9:49 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 1, 2022 at 8:10 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Waikiki is looking more and more like it did in 2019. That’s when 10.4 million people visited Hawaii and spent $17.75 billion.

Those were record numbers. And then the coronavirus pandemic brought tourism to a halt.

According to the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, March arrivals from the mainland have been ahead of the 2019 pace every day except for March 8.

As far as total visitor numbers, the state reported 26,977 arrivals. That’s only about 2% below the same day in 2019, and it’s also without mass tourism from Japan.

“We know there’s pent-up demand,” said Mufi Hannemann of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association. “People want to be able to travel because they’ve been cooped up, and we’ve had a great reputation of being a very safe pace and a healthy place to travel to.”

But now the high demand is clashing with limited supply.

Bruce Fisher of Hawaii Aloha Travel is finding it difficult to find available rooms for July and August.

He also said hotels and airlines are hiking the prices, knowing travelers are desperate to make up for missed vacations during the pandemic.

“Normally there would be much more inventory available. And now they’re asking premium prices for the same thing that you would’ve gotten a lot cheaper before,” he said.

That means leaving Hawaii is also more expensive. On Hawaiian Airlines, for example, a round trip from Honolulu to Tokyo this upcoming winter break costs upwards of $2,000.

Back in Waikiki, it’s been a bonanza.

“Occupancy rates are up, visitor arrivals are increasing daily, and also visitor spending, which is important. So all of those factors is that it’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge that we welcome,” said Hannemann.

COVID could still be a challenge. TZ Economics has been tracking the pandemic and tourism numbers, and each rise in arrivals has been reversed a bit by a new variant, including Delta and Omicron.

In Waikiki on Thursday, almost no one was wearing a mask.

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