Hawaii U.S. visitor arrivals are up 19% in January, compared with the record-breaking 2019 levels. What does that mean to those planning Hawaii vacations? Here’s what you need to know.
First, what this data seems to indicate is that Hawaii travel will continue to outperform all expectations, and this resistance will be counter to traditionally relevant economic conditions. In other words, people who can intend to travel with abandon. And Hawaii will remain in the front of many people’s minds, even as others say it is too expensive or has lost its allure. This trend is catching the industry off-guard.
So it is needless to say, those 800k visitors paid dearly for their time here in Hawaii, spending up 36% compared with last year and 17% compared with 2019. And these numbers were significantly better than many in Hawaii travel anticipated following the end-of-year holidays and concerns about inflation and recession.
1. Shorter booking window and how to leverage.
Notably, there is a new tendency to book Hawaii vacations within the final 90 days before travel. Many bookings occur within the last 4-6 weeks before the trip. This started years ago but has dramatically accelerated recently. It prevails at most times of the year other than the peaks of summer and end-of-year holidays when that becomes cost-prohibitive. That is making it hard for the industry to plan and price. But, on the other side, that may be good for visitors.
To take advantage of this, look for the best prices to be available from one month to four months before (non-peak period) travel. A trend towards better accommodation prices should prevail, and we see that occurring.
2023 is still on a record-breaking trend.
It’s still too early to know how the rest of the year will pan out, but by all appearances, 2o23 will break all prior records, despite every reason why that should not be the case. The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) said, “Hawaii’s tourism industry had a good start in 2023.”
Cruises to Hawaii are also accelerating, albeit minuscule compared with air arrivals. Nearly 17k visitors arrived by ship in January, up 38% compared with 2019.
2. Lack of international arrivals provides a second bargaining chip.
Because the neighbor islands always see fewer international visitors, they are less impacted by their not yet returning. Thus the Big Island and Kauai increased in January, whereas Maui stayed essentially unchanged, and Oahu dipped with its usual reliance on Japanese visitors. On a positive note, this is and will continue to see hotel prices holding, especially on Oahu.
Visitors should expect to find the best discounts for Honolulu accommodations until international arrivals return closer to normal. We are already findiong discounts of up to 25% or more on a range of accommodations this spring, including places like Hilton Hawaii Village and Prince Waikiki (both 25%/4th night free) and Outrigger ($149/night on a 7-night stay). Waikiki Beach Marriott has lowered rates to 30% below normal. These discounts are just starting to unfold and should even improve.