Mon, May 30, 2022 7:39 AM
By Kim Jarrett, The Center Square
Tourists are returning to Hawaii and the state is seeing numbers close to pre-pandemic counts, according to the latest report from the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
Tourists spent $1.6 million while visiting the islands in April, a 21% increase over the $1.32 billion spent in April 2019, according to the report. Spending by U.S. visitors was even higher and increased 24.5%.
Tourist spending during the first four months of 2022 is also slightly higher than in 2019, according to the report. Visitor spending is $5.83 billion year-to-date, compared to $5.81 billion during the same time period in 2019.
Spending is up but visitor counts have not fully recovered. The report shows 818,268 visitors came to the state, which is a 96.3% recovery from April 2019 numbers.
April was the first month visitors did not have to abide by the state's Safe Travels program, which required visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or have a negative test. The program ended March 25.
The majority of the visits were from the U.S. The report shows 514,878 flew into the islands from the U.S. West. Another 188,868 visitors flew in from the U.S. East.
"The month of April brought the highest recovery rate of visitor spending and arrivals since February 2020," said Mike McCartney, DBEDT director. "It was also the 12th consecutive month in which visitor arrivals from the continental U.S. surpassed the same month’s level in 2019."
The number of Japanese tourists is still down significantly when compared to 2019, according to the report.
The report shows 6,749 visitors came to the islands from Japan in April, a 94.4% decrease from 2019 when 119,487 visitors came to the state during April.
Gov. David Ige visited Japan earlier this month in hopes of encouraging more tourist to visit from the country.
"As our state focuses more on destination management over getting more visitors to the islands, we recognize that Japanese visitors are a priority for us because they tend to engage in the community, they’re respectful of the Hawaiian culture and of our environment," Ige said at the time.
Tourism officials said they are expecting more visitors from Japan in the next few months.
"Factors playing into travelers’ decisions on where to visit include competition from other destinations worldwide, inflation and currency exchange challenges, fuel prices, labor and supply chain issues, and competitive service and quality levels," McCartney said.