Hawaii’s tourism industry expects a busier than normal fall season

 Wednesday, September 7, 2022 


2022 is shaping to be a good year for Hawaii’s tourism.

So far, nearly 5.5 million people have visited the islands this year, spending $11.2 billion.

While there were 13% fewer visitors compared to the first seven months of 2019, spending rose nearly 6%.

But what can we expect in the coming months?

Jennifer Chun, director of tourism research at the state Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism said that they do see quite a few less seats overall in September compared to 2019.

They still have more domestic seats than they did in 2019, but less than 2021. And they do see some increases in international seats. Looking into October, it’s a similar pattern.

Chun attributes the fewer air seats to changing schedules for airlines. In 2021, airlines shifted their routes to accommodate the demand of domestic travellers.

The time between the peak summer and winter travel seasons, and vice versa, is what’s known in the industry as a “shoulder season.” Historically, there is less demand during the spring and fall seasons.

Typically for an airline like Hawaiian, during the summer they’ll be about 90% full, said Brent Overbeek, chief revenue officer for Hawaiian Airlines.

As they get into kind of the latter part of August, September, and into end of fall, that typically will dip into the mid-80s.

DBEDT’s latest economic outlook for the state predicts visitor arrivals will make a 99% recovery between September and November, compared to the same period in 2019.

Overbeek confirms with HPR that Hawaiian Airlines bookings are strong in the coming months.

Demand overall, particularly in North America, is holding up well.

Overbeek tells HPR that travellers from the East Coast typically book their flights farther in advance than travellers from the West Coast.

He says East Coast travellers book a flight at least four months in advance, while West Coast passengers will book closer to three months.

In Kaʻanapali on Maui, one hotel is seeing strong guest bookings heading into fall.

John White, marketing director at the Kaʻanapali Beach Hotel said that they are pacing ahead for the fall compared to 2019.

So, they anticipate a good solid 85% for all the months through the balance of this year.

White says bookings in the coming months are higher than what his hotel has historically seen in shoulder seasons. He notes the term “shoulder season” may be losing its traditional meaning — especially in 2022.

It’s just continuing right on through from summer, all the way into the festive season, White said.

While visitor demand remains strong in the coming months, industry professionals are still keeping a watchful eye on potential challenges.

For White, that means paying attention to airfare prices and the number of air seats entering Maui. He, like many in Hawaii’s tourism industry, is paying attention to inflation and supply chain issues.

But his largest concern is staffing.

However, many tourism professionals are paying attention to Japan.

Japan represented about 20% of our business pre-pandemic, Overbeek said.

So that coming back, in earnest, is really important for us as a company. And while we’re flying a bit to Japan, we certainly want to increase our footprint there.

Changes to Japan’s COVID travel restrictions go into effect Sept. 7.

The daily number of arrivals to the country will increase from 20,000 to 50,000. Travelers can also bypass the country’s COVID test requirements if they have received three COVID shots.

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