by Mia Taylor
Last updated: 5:05 PM ET, Wed March 1, 2023
The number of travelers arriving in Hawaii has nearly reached pre-pandemic levels as of 2023-and in equally promising news for the destination, visitor spending has exceeded 2019 levels.
During the first month of this year, Hawaii received about 791,781 visitors. That's a 37.9 percent increase over January 2022 and a 96.8 percent recovery in total arrivals from January 2019, the benchmark year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The data, just released by Hawaii's Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT), also shows that visitors to the islands spent $1.89 billion in January 2023. Compared to January 2022's spending of $1.4 billion, that's a 35.5 percent increase. It's also far more spending than what took place in the 2019 benchmark year, when receipts were $1.62 billion.
"Hawaii's visitor industry and the state's economic recovery continued to be driven primarily by increased spending among visitors from the U.S. West and U.S. East, followed by the steady recovery of our key international visitor markets," John De Fries, President and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said in a statement.
Canadian visitors also spent their fair share in Hawaii during the first month of this year. According to the newly released data, total spending from Canadian tourists nearly approached 2019 levels.
"We measure our performance at the Hawaii Tourism Authority by resident sentiment, visitor satisfaction, per-person-per-day visitor spending and total visitor spending," De Fries added. "These four indicators, adopted in our 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, represent a balance between tourism's economic benefits and its impacts on local communities."
All of the key performance indicators for Hawaii are trending in the right direction, added De Fries. What's more, these four performance measures are trending upward while total arrivals to the destination are actually down compared to historic levels. (January 2023 visitation levels are still 3.2 percent lower than what they were during the same month in 2019.)
Of the 791,781 visitors that arrived in Hawaii in January, the lion's share-775,132, came by air service. In addition, 16,648 came by cruise ship, a figure that reveals an increasing number of cruise visitors this year as well. By comparison, in 2022, there were 7,004 cruise visitors. What's more, in 2019, the number of cruise visitors was just 12,033-meaning there are more of these visitors now than prior to the pandemic.
The new data release also shows that the average length of stay among visitors in January 2023 was 10.16 days, while in 2018, the average stay was about 9.9 days.
Even with numbers trending in the right direction, De Fries said it's important that the destination remains vigilant in its efforts to help the tourism industry in its recovery. "As global travel is rebalanced and restored in the years ahead, it's imperative that we maintain our proactive presence and communication in our key markets to amplify our statewide message of malama Hawaii for the well-being of community," said De Fries.
In related news about Hawaii's tourism industry, earlier this month, Hawaii Governor Josh Green introduced a series of bills that would implement a "paradise passport" and charge tourists for visiting the island state's top destinations.
According to KHON2.com, Governor Green said during a campaign stop that he supported a bill that would propose a $50 fee on every incoming traveler who visited "a state-owned park, beach, forest, trail, or other recreational natural areas."
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