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Kaua‘i tourism industry continues post-pandemic rebound

LIHU‘E — Tourism continued to successfully rebound post-pandemic on the island of Kaua‘i, as evidenced by a rise in visitors and visitor spending in January.

The January 2023 visitor statistics report, completed by the state Department of Business, Economic Development &Tourism, showed Kaua‘i experienced a 26.1 percent increase in visitor arrivals.

More specifically, there were 106,980 visitor arrivals in January, compared with 84,828 in January 2022. Total visitor arrivals in January 2023 were also nearly 1 percent higher than in pre-pandemic January 2019, which saw 106,142 visitors.

Visitor spending on Kaua‘i surged 45.6 percent to $234.6 million in January, compared with $161.1 million in 2022. January 2023 spending on Kaua‘i was also up 32.9 percent from 2019, when spending totaled $176.5 million.

Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau, told The Garden Island that the spike in visitors from 2022 to 2023 can be attributed to the COVID-19 restrictions that were still in effect in January 2022.

“April was when we pretty much dropped (all restrictions), so that’s why the numbers seem pretty high compared to January of last year,” she said, adding the January 2019 data is a better “apples to apples comparison.”

The three other major islands experienced similar signs of a near-complete post-pandemic recovery.

O‘ahu had 435,833 visitors in January 2023, compared with 277,228 visitors in January 2022, and 488,441 visitors in January 2019. Visitor spending was $751.2 million, surpassing January 2022’s total of $566.7 million by 32.5 percent and January 2019’s total of $700.2 million by 7.3 percent.

Maui had 228,743 visitors in January 2023, compared with 183,278 visitors in January 2022, and 233,422 visitors in January 2019. Visitor spending climbed 47.3 percent to $625.2 million in January from $424.5 million in January 2022. The most most recent total was also 31.8 percent greater than January 2019’s total of $474.2 million.

Hawai‘i Island had 148,376 visitors in January 2023, compared with 110,697 visitors in January 2022, and 147,402 visitors in January 2019. Visitor spending on the island totaled $260.1 million in January 2023, compared with $235.6 million in January 2022, a 10.4 percent increase. January 2023 spending also marked a 2.7 percent increase from January 2019, when spending totaled $253.3 million

Comparing the data between 2019 and 2023, Kanoho said that Kaua‘i and the other major islands “have come back strong in a short period of time.”

She added, “I think there was a pent-up demand for travel.”

However, Kanoho noted a continued increase in tourism is uncertain, especially given forecasts of an upcoming 2023 recession.

“We never predict. We track, and we watch, and we listen, but we don’t predict,” she said.

The Hawaiian Islands as a whole had a total of 791,781 visitors arrivals in January 2023, according to the report. That’s up from 574,183 in January 2022, but slightly less than the 817,600 visitor arrivals in January 2019.

Even though January 2023 had fewer visitors compared with January 2019, visitor spending throughout the state surpassed January 2019’s pre-pandemic numbers.

Visitors to the four Hawaiian Islands spent a total of $1.89 billion last month, a 35.5 percent increase from January 2022, when total visitor spending was $1.40 billion. January 2023 visitor spending was also 17.2 percent higher than in January 2019, when visitor spending totaled $1.62 billion.

“The tourism industry had a good start in 2023 with nearly a 97 percent recovery in arrivals,” said DBEDT Director Chris Sadayasu in a statement. He pointed to an increase in total visitors by air, cruise ship arrivals, and arrivals from Japan and Canada.

“With the recovery of tourism, especially international tourism, those businesses that rely on international visitors will experience a better year in 2023, although full recovery may take a few years,” he said.

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Emma Grunwald, reporter, can be reached at 808-652-0638 or egrunwald@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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