Published on : Wednesday, January 6, 2021
According to a recent report from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Maui County visitors nearly tripled from October to November — the first full month of reopening to trans-Pacific travel. And, despite the rise in COVID-19 cases on Maui, state Department of Health data shows cases are still largely community associated as opposed to travel related.
The visitors to Maui County in November were 65,284, compared with 23,103 in October and 2,468 in September, according to HTA’s Hawaii Visitor Statistics released Dec. 28.
Visitor spending was highest on Maui last month, despite the Valley Isle having fewer visitors than Oahu, which usually tops the state.
Maui visitors spent $124.2 million (data was not available for Molokai and Lanai), while $109.8 million was spent on Oahu, $54.4 million on Hawaii island and $50 million on Kauai.
Viewed as a way to bolster Hawaii’s tourism-based economy, a pre-travel testing program launched Oct. 15 that allows trans-Pacific travelers to bypass quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure. The visitor industry largely shut down after a mandatory 14-day trans-Pacific travel quarantine began in March.
Despite the increase in visitors to Maui, with many people indicating their trips are for pleasure or vacation, the majority of COVID-19 cases in recent months have been linked to community-associated risks, though both resident and nonresident travel cases have been on the rise, state DOH data shows.
In October, the county had 133 cases. Of those, 122 were community associated, four were nonresident travel cases, three were resident travel cases and four were unknown or pending.
In November, the county had 150 cases. Of those, 93 were community associated, 27 were nonresident travel, 21 were resident travel and seven were unknown or pending.
In December, the county had 486 cases. Of those, 274 were community associated, 45 were nonresident travel, 28 were resident travel and 139 were unknown or pending.
Overall, Oahu led the state with 76,656 visitors last month. Maui County was not far behind with 63,740 visitors to Maui, 904 to Lanai and 640 to Molokai.
Typically Maui County visitor numbers are much lower than Oahu’s. Last year in November, Oahu saw 468,684 visitors, nearly twice as many as the 242,170 that traveled to Maui County, including 232,330 to Maui, 5,368 to Lanai and 4,472 to Molokai.
Asked about Maui closing the gap with Oahu last month, John De Fries, HTA president and CEO, said the number of visitors is directly linked to the number of available air seats, which totaled about 109,000 air seats to Maui on direct flights.
“Many of those travelers to Maui indicated the reason for their trip was pleasure/vacation, and as a result, Maui hotels led the counties in November RevPAR (revenue per available room) of $76, with an average daily rate of $375 and occupancy at 20.2 percent,” he said Monday. “Regarding Oahu’s daily arrival numbers, more travelers indicated they were either returning residents or visiting family and friends compared to Maui’s trans-Pacific travelers.”
He added that Oahu usually gets the majority of international travelers, and there weren’t a lot of international travelers during November.
As a whole last month, 183,779 visitors traveled to Hawaii by air, with many from the U.S. West (137,452, a decrease of 63.4 percent compared to last year) and U.S. East (40,205, down 73.3 percent), HTA’s report said. In addition, 524 visitors came from Japan (a decrease of 99.6 percent) and 802 came from Canada (a decrease of 98.4 percent). There were 4,795 visitors from all other international markets (a decline of 94.3 percent), with many from Guam.