Hawaii trips for 2023 are underway and will likely be stronger than expected. This follows the latest data indicating that visitor spending has just eclipsed the record results of 2019.
With data from January to November 2022, visitors spent $17.4 billion here, up 9% from 2019. This happened even though the actual number of tourists was -11% to 9, 4 million.
West Coast visitors spend 46% more.
Hawaiian meat and potato visitors also arrived in droves last month, with 416,000 visitors in November, up 11% from 2019. More importantly, they spent $564 million, up 46% in the average nine days visitors spend in Hawaii!
A significant slowdown in tourism is unlikely.
Over the past six months, some have expressed concern about attendance statistics in relation to a declining economic environment and lack of diversification in Hawaii. So the jagged question of too many or too few visitors continues. Our feeling, however, is that a significant slowdown is not indicated.
As you remember, we said the Christmas and New Year holidays would be the next benchmark for Hawaii travel in 2023. Those numbers will take another few weeks to roll in, but we expect them to be very strong based on the November data and what we’re seeing here on the ground. There had been concerns about the lack of typical vacation bookings well in advance.
While neighboring islands rely primarily on strong domestic tourism, Honolulu mostly continues to suffer from the long-awaited slow return of international arrivals. Japanese visitors are still down 90% from the average. The international problem will not be helped by the upcoming plan to Covid test all Chinese visitors (and those traveling from China) before they arrive. Finally, another problem in Hawaii is the lack of group activities and conference demand.
Hawaii remains all-in on travel.
Clearly, Hawaii has not taken advantage of the Covid period to diversify economically. It’s a frustration for many here in Hawaii. The state’s UHERO said the lack of diversity “exposes Hawaii’s economy to external shocks that trigger collapses in tourist numbers.” Additionally, Hawaii’s economic growth declined for decades as the dominance of tourism failed to generate productivity growth.
Here are the issues visitors to Hawaii will face in 2023.
- High prices, taxes and fees in Hawaii. Room rates and rental cars are up 50% since pre-Covid, which isn’t entirely different from other US tourist destinations. We mentioned recently that we pay more for vehicles at LAX than in Hawaii. High accommodation rates are in addition to the 18% tourist tax, as well as fees of various types.
- US inflation and impending recession. It is not known how deep a recession will be or how long it could last. It all depends on who you ask. Inflation seems to be leveling off, but it’s still a big factor when it comes to holiday spending.
- High airfares. With the exception of West Coast markets which are still feeling the South West effect, prices have risen significantly since pre-Covid.
- Service and staff issues. Industry-wide, it’s difficult to hire and retain employees in the travel industry, from ramp agents to housekeepers, waiters to front desk staff, and everything in between.
Coming to Hawaii in 2023?
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