Tourists obviously don’t show up in Hawaii like they normally do during the peak holiday season. Your editors can attest to that, as yesterday saw us fly through two of Hawaii’s perennially busy airports and fly to and within Hawaii, where things aren’t usually busy this time of year. This has been confirmed by others, including Hawaiian hotel gurus.
And frankly, given the myriad of issues, it’s no wonder. As you can see in the lead photo, even businesses in HNL were closed mid-day. While one store opened, the four next to it, shown here, did not. And this was in a typically busy area of the terminal. Another shock was the flying of a 175-seat plane yesterday with 38 on board between HNL and Kauai just days before Christmas. The crew reported that this was the norm.
As one of our regulars noted, “Governor Greene’s comments are hurting everyone again. Visit short-term rental message boards and rental sites on the web. After these comments, people are increasingly afraid to book Maui, worried that the government will take away their rent. This is unfortunate, once again. These plans must be considered and carefully considered before broadcast. It’s too easy to switch to another island, Cabo, Costa Rica or cruise. This is a sensitive situation. Stop giving tourists more reasons to stay away. All the best my Oana.’
Editor Jeff, who has been here the longest, has been celebrating holidays in Hawaii for almost half a century. And what he and editor Rob stumbled upon yesterday was completely out of the ordinary. While their flight to Hawaii from the mainland was full, arriving at the Honolulu airport on the Wednesday afternoon before Christmas was anything but normal.
So why aren’t visitors coming to Hawaii as usual?
There are many reasons and we know them all. But they don’t improve over time, which is even more telling and worrying.
Scary news from the state of Hawaii.
It just keeps going. This was greatly exacerbated by the Maui wildfires, when the lieutenant governor, governor of Hawaii, and Maui’s mayor failed to deliver appropriate messages to address the immediate effects of the fires and not scare away visitors for the foreseeable future.
Hawaii made the big mistake of thinking it could forget about its only source of income, tourism, for months.
Reports from Maui and from the small but vocal anti-visitor sector continue to raise concerns about future visitors. At Kaanapali Beach, near Whaler’s Village, there is a 24-hour-a-day fish protest on the beach to discourage tourism until the 7,000 people living in hotels get long-term lodging options. Any way you look at it, such protests discourage tourism while drawing attention to the displaced victims of the fires. And that message has been seen and echoed around the world, which views Maui as a place not to be visited for now.
Governor threatens to end Maui vacation rentals starting next month.
Green has proposed a moratorium on Maui vacation rentals starting in January if he doesn’t get enough voluntary conversions from short-term to long-term rentals for fire victims’ homes.
We’re not sure how well it’s going after we received this email from a reader named Sam asking for our help:
“I’ve been trying to get a short-term rental for a family that was displaced by the Maui fire, but I can’t seem to get a response from the state or agencies. We really want to help but don’t know where to turn so I thought I’d get in touch. Any help would be greatly appreciated.”
Comment from Beat of Hawaii reader Sam.
Aloha is largely lost in these much louder conversations.
The cost of travel to Hawaii remains out of control and out of proportion to other destinations. Seasonal vacation bookings are depressed during what should be the most prosperous and busiest week in Hawaii travel.
It also comes as travel has not declined to other destinations, and Americans are forecast to travel more than usual during the 2023 holidays.
Recovery just isn’t in sight for Maui or the state. Maui never recovered from the total shutdown, which had a ripple effect throughout Hawaii. Although travelers were able to return to most of Maui, it wasn’t until last month that West Maui was fully reopened. While there has been some improvement on Maui, it’s anything but normal there, and Hawaii’s total visitor arrivals for the month will soon reveal what’s clear and already visible on the ground.
Maui Hotel workers protest in Kaanapali.
Yesterday, Maui hotel workers affiliated with their union, Unite Here: Local 5, held a press conference, waved signs and marched in support of those, including their workers, who remain without long-term housing to this day.
The union said this week, “While the proposed decisions before the Maui County Council related to short-term vacation rentals would provide immediate relief to some in need, they would ultimately lead to long-term problems for the Maui community. We call for solutions that address both the short- and long-term housing needs of Maui, including rent control, eviction protection, and permanent conversion of short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods to long-term rentals.
It was also reported that some hotels in West Maui had canceled holiday reservations to continue being able to accommodate fire victims. Outrigger is one of those hotel groups that asked visitors to change their Maui plans at the last minute.
DBEDT Director Jimmy Tokioka recognized Outrigger for continuing to expand housing for displaced survivors by relocating more than 200 vacation reservations.
Hawaii hotels are clearly noticing the decline in travel to Hawaii.
Friend of BOH editors and prominent Hawaiian hotelier Jerry Gibson also noted the current decline in travel to Hawaii, saying, “Even driving down the street in Waikiki, I can tell it’s not normal. I think most hotels on Oahu are in the mid 80% occupancy when during a normal holiday season we can be in the 90% to 92% occupancy range.