Hawaii Travel Pent-Up Demand Slowing

Mixed Signals: Hawaii Travel Pent-Up Demand Slowing

So exactly where we are in terms of demand for Hawaii travel? There was just so much coming into spring and summer 2022 that it was virtually uncontrollable and overwhelming for visitors and residents alike. But what about fall 2022 and beyond? Believe us, everyone is wondering the very same thing, so you aren’t alone.

How much has Hawaii travel demand lessened after the incredible peaks earlier this year?

Yes, it has. And no, it hasn’t. The signals are mixed, as you’ll see below.

1. State’s data still shows arrival counts are elevated, but with a difference.

As of September 1, the state’s travel data dashboard indicates that August was up, showing 27,301 average daily domestic arrivals. That was a 14.6% compared with 2019 (the last comparable year). And so it has been since spring 2022. But now, something is peeking through. You can see it visually on the graph below. What you can start to see happening is that beginning in July, some days were tracking lower in domestic visitor arrivals than pre-Covid. And that trend is continuing.

Hawaii domestic visitor arrivals

2. Anecdotal evidence in softening of Hawaii travel economy.

Here on the ground, we see fewer lines everywhere, including at the airport and to get into restaurants, fewer visitor cars on the road, and reports from business owners across the islands we are in contact with who report that demand is somewhat less overall.

BOH editor Jeff also flew to the mainland this week, which you’ll be reading about shortly. The flight he took to the mainland had only 48 seats occupied out of 147 available. At the same time, another airline’s flight which shared the same departure lounge with his flight, had only 35 passengers loaded, with a capacity of 175.

3. Reasons for the starting decline in Hawaii travel.

These are all of the reasons you likely know about. They include the ridiculous price increases in Hawaii accommodations and other expenses. On the other hand, flights to Hawaii have remained reasonably stable, at least thus far, due to increased competition. Other reasons are the sense that Hawaii doesn’t want so many visitors. Then too, there are significant reasons that don’t have much to do with Hawaii, including inflation and the concerning economic situation in the US.

4. What does that mean for visitors?

Prices may, at last, stop escalating. Beat of Hawaii’s editors will be in Honolulu for work again next month, and the price they’re paying for the same humble accommodation is up over 200% compared to pre-Covid. Fewer flights are also likely to result from decreasing demand. That could mean more route cancellations as well as flights that operate only a few days a week instead of daily. We already see that, for example, on both Hawaiian Air and Alaska Air where some flights operate only 2-4 times weekly.

One ancillary benefit of slowing travel means not waiting in long TSA lines. Editor Jeff reports he never waited in line more than five minutes at TSA this week both departing Hawaii and departing the mainland for Hawaii on his return.

5. Will visitors still choose Hawaii?

Of course, they will. Jeff witness the excitement of arriving visitors on yesterdayboard a full flight to Hawaii. But there are constraints, including cost-consciousness at a level far more significant than right after Covid. Travelers want to obtain the best value possible for vacation dollars.

6. How can visitors benefit most?

If you have flexibility on travel seasons and times, you will be in for pleasant surprises. For peak demand seasons, however, prices will stay high and even go higher.

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