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Hawaii might have been one of the most cautious states when it came to allowing visitors during the last 15 months of the pandemic, but it knew this day – or month – would come.

Tourism is back on the islands, for sure.

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According to preliminary statistics released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), a total of 629,681 visitors arrived by air service to the Hawaiian Islands in May 2021, mainly from the U.S. West and U.S. East. In comparison, only 9,116 visitors arrived by air in May 2020 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and Hawaii’s quarantine requirement for travelers.

But the real eye-opening number to emerge from the month of May was this – visitors spent a whopping $1.1 billion on the islands during that time.

While the numbers are still less than what tourism produced in May of 2019, they are surprisingly close by comparison – another testament to the pent-up demand, or ‘revenge travel,’ from visitors.

Prior to the pandemic, Hawaii experienced record-level visitor expenditures and arrivals in 2019 and in the first two months of 2020. When compared to 2019, visitor arrivals in May 2021 were down 25.7 percent from the May 2019 count of 847,396 visitors (air and cruise), and visitor spending decreased 22.2 percent from the $1.41 billion spent in May 2019.

But considering that in May 2021 the state’s Safe Travels program was still underway, with some out-of-state passengers still needing to self-quarantine for 10 days, those May 2021 numbers are surprisingly already relatively close to the 2019 numbers – especially keeping in mind that cruising has also only come back this month.

When visitors from Japan truly return, it will make a huge difference.

In May 2021, there were a total of 1,312 visitors from Japan who spent $4.9 million. That is well off the 113,226 visitors who went to Hawaii in May of 2019 and spent $162.4 million.





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