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Hawaii tourism continues recovery from COVID, Maui fires

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(The Center Square) – Fewer tourists visited Hawaii in January than last year, but spending increased, according to the latest statistics from the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Visitors spent $1.81 billion in the Aloha State in January, up 4.5% from the previous year. More than 763,000 people visited, which is 3.6% less than last January.

The state is continuing to recover from the significant drop in visitors due to COVID-19 and the Maui fires last August. The January numbers compared to the same month in 2019 represent a 93.4% recovery, according to DBEDT. Visitor spending, which is adjusted for inflation, is up 11.9%.

“There were incidents in January 2024 which affected our tourism recovery,” said DBEDT Director James Kunane Tokioka. “The tragic accident at Haneda Airport in Japan and the grounding of Boeing 737-9 Max airplanes resulted in flight cancellations and reduced visitor arrivals. Cruise numbers continued to be strong in January 2024, with a 7.1 percent increase in cruise visitors. The cruise market has fully recovered since last year as compared with the numbers in 2019.”

Five people died when a plane carrying earthquake relief supplies collided with a Japan Airlines jet at Haneda Airport in early January, according to CNN. An Alaska Airlines flight was forced to return to the Portland airport on Jan. 5 after a bolt on an exit door became loose, according to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board. Alaska Airlines announced in December it is purchasing Hawaiian Airlines for $1.9 billion.

Maui continues to see fewer visitors as it recovers from the fires that killed 100 people and damaged or destroyed more than 2,000 buildings. More than 175,000 people visited the island in January, compared to 228,743 last year, a 23.5% drop. The January numbers are 25% less than January 2019.

Tourists also spent 19.4% less on Maui than the previous year at $503.8 million.

“Locally, the Maui wildfires continued to impact visitors to Maui six months after the tragedy,” Tokioka said. “Maui’s visitor counts decreased by 23.5 percent compared to January 2023, although there has been progress from August 2023 when visitor arrivals were down by 57.8 percent. With the active recovery efforts and campaigns, we hope to see continuous improvements over the upcoming months.”

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