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Arrivals near pre-pandemic levels in July | News, Sports, Jobs

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A Hawaiian Airlines jet is bracketed by a pair of Kahului directional traffic signals while making its approach to Kahului Airport on Aug. 11. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Visitor numbers have spiked month over month since the start of this year, and July counts for Maui were just shy of record pre-pandemic levels.

There were 282,715 visitors in July 2021, compared with 307,834 visitors in July 2019, according to preliminary visitor statistics released Monday by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Meanwhile, Mayor Michael Victorino echoed on Tuesday his request that visitors stay in their travel “bubble” and that all people refrain from travel to Hana and other small communities with few medical resources.

“If you’re visiting, please stay at your resort and enjoy the beaches, the restaurants, the shops in your resort — in other words, try to keep a bubble of travel as far as your vacation here,” he said during the county news conference Tuesday afternoon. “I ask everyone: This is not a time to go out to Hana, or even some of the other smaller communities, because they have very limited medical facilities and medical assistance.”

Maui County typically has a stronger U.S. visitor market than Oahu and Hawaii island. Due to pent-up demand and built-up savings, arrivals from the Mainland to Maui saw significant spikes since the reopening of tourism late last year.

Arrivals to Maui since the reopening have been, month by month: October, 23,103; November, 63,740; December, 90,605; January, 66,925; February, 92,608; March, 170,750; April, 178,105; May, 215,148; and June, 260,618, according to Hawaii Tourism Authority data.

Average daily arrivals for domestic passengers during some weeks in July surpassed pre-pandemic record highs. Maui saw an average of 8,451 passengers a day during the week of July 18. During the same time frame in July 2019, Maui saw an average of 8,055 daily passengers, according to DBEDT daily statistics.

Maui County in July had the highest per-person-per-day spending in the state, with Lanai visitors spending about $555 per day and Maui tourists spending about $213 per day.

The average daily census on Maui was 76,195 visitors in July versus 76,577 visitors in July 2019, according to the DBEDT report. Tourists had a longer stay — up 8.3 percent to 8.35 days — compared with 2019. They contributed $504 million in visitor spending, slightly below the $506 million spent in July 2019.

Through the first seven months of 2021, there were 1,266,870 visitors to Maui versus 1,830,367 visitors in the first seven months of 2019. Total visitor spending was $2.23 billion, down 28.2 percent from the $3.11 billion spent in the first seven months of 2019.

Overall, a total of 879,551 visitors arrived by air to Hawaii in July, primarily from the U.S. West and U.S. East, compared with the July 2019 count of 995,210 visitors, according to the report. Visitor spending statewide in July at $1.7 billion was only down about 7 percent compared with 2019, though.

DBEDT Director Mike McCartney said in a news release that the high summer season will transition to a slower fall season due to a “natural decline in arrivals from the U.S. market during this traditional shoulder period.”

He stopped short of mentioning recent government requests to reduce travel to Hawaii but said the market will be softer as booking paces decline amid “uncertainty created around the COVID-19 delta variant.”

“We expect arrivals to slow in both September and October starting after the Labor Day weekend,” McCartney said in the news release. “Arrivals could dip between a range of 50 percent to 70 percent of the 2019 level.”

As delta-driven COVID-19 surges have continued to cripple hospitals across Hawaii, state and local leaders have asked for visitors and residents to limit travel.

Gov. David Ige on Aug. 23 pointed to the state’s strained hospitals and asked that people not visit the islands.

Also last week, Victorino requested that residents and visitors take a voluntary 21-day break from nonessential activities.

Before the global pandemic, Hawaii had record-level visitor arrivals and expenditures in 2019. Maui County saw more than 3 million tourists that year, sparking calls for better infrastructure, tourism management and resource protection.

The state at the onset of the pandemic discouraged travel to Hawaii and mandated a 14-day quarantine on arrivals starting March 26, 2020. Trans-Pacific travel rules were relaxed through the Safe Travels program starting Oct. 15 as a way to boost tourism.

Most passengers arriving from out of state and traveling intercounty in July could bypass the state’s mandatory 10-day self-quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test result from a trusted partner. People who were fully vaccinated in the U.S. could bypass the quarantine order beginning July 8. There were no intercounty travel restrictions in July.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at [email protected]




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