HONOLULU — Nearly 2.3 million visitors set foot on the Valley Isle last year – not as many as in 2019, but just over 1.5 million more than in 2020, according to statistics released by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
Maui counted 2,299,476 visitors in 2021; 792,602 in 2020; and 3,059,905 in 2019 with the islands of Lanai and Molokai following the same trend in smaller numbers.
Ports were closed to cruise ships statewide in 2021, but the Hawaii DOT Harbors Division announced in early January that Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line have signed the first port agreements to resume operations in Hawaii.
All cruise lines entering Hawaii will be required to participate in the Safe Travels program.
Statewide visitor totals followed the same trend as well: 6,777,498 in 2021; 2,708,258 in 2020; and 10,386,673 in 2019 — a record visitor arrivals following the Great Recession in 2008.
In December 2021 alone, 235,433 tourists visited Maui, compared to 91,171 visitors a year earlier. Maui’s pre-pandemic visitor count for December 2019 was 275,419.
Mike McCartney, DBEDT director, said that the U.S. visitor count in December 2021 “was the eighth consecutive month surpassing the same month compared to 2019 levels and the international count at 77,748 at the highest level since March 2020.”
He said that the omicron variant detected in Hawaii in December resulted in a slowdown in arrivals that will most likely continue through the first quarter of this year.
“As long as Hawaii remains a safe destination, we can regain our momentum with visitor arrivals to recover in the second quarter of this year,” McCartney said. “We remain on target to welcoming more visitors in 2022 than we did in 2021.”
The most recent statistics available regarding visitor satisfaction were from the third quarter of last year. The survey was sent via an email invitation and sampled from responses by mainland visitors from the East and West who had stayed for a minimum of two days. Overall, the satisfaction level from visitors from both coasts was above 80%. First-time U.S. West visitors gave higher satisfaction scores compared to repeat visitors. More than half of the U.S. West respondents (61.8%) were “very likely” to return, compared to 49% of U.S. East visitors.
Among U.S. West visitors, the highest motivating factor to visit Maui (42.6%) was the island’s landmarks and natural beauty, although 45.3% indicated there were no motivating factors. The highest rated visitor attraction for U.S. West (29.8%) and U.S. East (51.2%) visitors was Haleakala National Park. Maui Ocean Center, Iao Valley State Monument and Whalers Village Museum took the next three spots for both groups in varying order.
Ports were closed to cruise ships statewide in 2021, but the Hawaii Department of Transportation Harbors Division announced in early January that Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line have signed the first port agreements to resume operations in Hawaii, effective Jan. 15. Cruise lines carrying more than 250 persons, including passengers and crew, and with itineraries that include overnight stays, are required to have a port agreement that detail health and safety protocols for cruise lines operating in the state.
The formal agreement includes an outline of medical evacuation procedures for passengers or crew if a need arises; housing agreement if quarantine or isolation is required; and acknowledgement of public health response resources of local jurisdictions and vaccination strategies by the cruise lines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The CDC orders for cruise ships states that ships must have on-board testing and medical staff to ensure prevention, mitigation, and response protocols and training. Both cruise lines have committed to full vaccination rates, as well as pre-board testing and onboard safety and cleaning protocols, according to a news release.
In addition, Hawaii will require participation in the Safe Travels program for cruise lines arriving in Hawaii from outside the state, but it will not apply to cruise lines sailing interisland.