The robust holiday season that Hawaii’s visitor industry anticipated is evaporating, pushing the start of a meaningful tourism recovery into the third quarter of next year.
Nobody’s got a crystal ball, but the visitor industry’s short-term future dramatically dimmed under a convergence of factors that materialized last week. Even the prospect of COVID-19 immunizations starting as soon as next month is likely to cause an immediate drop in travel demand as visitors may decide to wait until the vaccine is available, industry officials say.
Gov. David Ige’s announcement Thursday that Hawaii will tighten its entry requirements came at a time when travel demand already was expected to plummet due to a warning from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to avoid Thanksgiving travel.
Starting Tuesday, under the new policy, trans-Pacific passengers to Hawaii who can’t present an approved negative pre-departure test upon arrival won’t be able to bypass the 14-day quarantine, even after their test results become available.
Add to that stricter lockdowns in key western states, the top tourist market for Hawaii, and elsewhere.
Worse yet, the state’s latest visitor satisfaction and resident sentiment surveys show both groups have grown less satisfied with Hawaii tourism. Visitors say the destination isn’t back to its pre-pandemic level of activities and services, when the islands saw a record 10.4 million visitors in 2019. And some Hawaii residents are unhappy the visitor industry is trying to recover.
Statewide hotel occupancy was actually worse in October, when the pre-arrival testing program started, than in September, according to the latest hotel report from STR.…