Hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, Hawaiian tourism entered 2021 in critical condition with visitor arrivals down 74% from the previous year, according to preliminary statistics released Thursday by the Tourism Authority. from Hawaii.
The agency reported 2.7 million visitor arrivals in 2020, when tourism halted in mid-March as the virus took hold here and around the world. This compares to 10.4 million arrivals in 2019.
The attempt to reopen tourism in the last quarter of 2020 through the state’s Safe Travels pre-arrival testing program has done little to boost industry vitals, HTA reported, with arrivals in December down 75% compared to the same month in 2019.
Only 235,793 visitors visited the islands last month, compared to 952,441 in December 2019, HTA said.
Even with COVID vaccinations taking place across the country, visitor industry officials have said Hawaii tourism likely won’t see a significant rebound until the third or fourth quarter of 2021, if that’s the case.
State Department of Health officials reported two new coronavirus-related deaths on Oahu on Thursday and 100 additional infections, bringing the state’s total since the pandemic began to 406 deaths and 25,541 cases. The statistics reflect new cases reported to the DOH on Tuesday.
The latest infections include 65 on Oahu, 21 on Maui, seven on the island of Hawaii, one on Lanai and six residents diagnosed outside of Hawaii, officials said. Following updated information, one case diagnosed out of state has been removed from the counts.
The latest COVID deaths were a 70-year-old man and a 90-year-old woman, both hospitalized and with underlying medical conditions.
The State Department of Defense announced Thursday that seven Hawaii National Guardsmen who deployed to Washington, DC, for the inauguration of President Joe Biden have tested positive for COVID-19. All seven, who are asymptomatic, are in isolation and their fellow guards who tested negative are completing a 14-day quarantine.
The DOH also reported that it was investigating two groups associated with hotels and lodgings, involving nine cases so far. The department did not identify the properties, but said all cases involved employees, including those working in housekeeping and janitorial services.
The state implemented its Safe Travels program on Oct. 15, allowing passengers arriving from out of state to bypass a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test result from a supplier. approved test. Since then, Hawaii’s travel restrictions have been changed on occasion, including a reduction in the quarantine period to 10 days from 14 days starting Dec. 10.
The pre-arrival testing program was extended to visitors from Japan on November 6 and on Wednesday Governor David Ige announced that starting February 5, travelers from South Korea could also take advantage of the Safe Travels program with a COVID-19 negative. result of a test taken no earlier than 72 hours prior to departure for Hawaii.
But travelers from many foreign states and countries, including South Korea, face the added hurdle of having to self-quarantine upon returning home, further discouraging tourism.
Other points of the HTA report:
>> Oahu welcomed 112,856 visitors in December, compared to 558,346 visitors in December 2019. Domestic visitor spending in the month fell nearly 80% to $156.5 million. (Data on international visitor spending was not available.) For 2020 as a whole, visitor arrivals fell 75% to 1.5 million.
>> Maui welcomed 90,605 visitors last month compared to 275,419 visitors a year earlier. Spending by visitors in December fell nearly 64% to $185.9 million. The total number of arrivals in 2020 decreased by 74%, to 791,660 visitors.
>> Kauai has the strictest travel restrictions of any county, and it shows in HTA statistics, with just 3,759 visitors arriving on the island in December, compared to 124,356 the previous year. Spending for the month fell 94% to $10.4 million. Visitor arrivals for all of 2020 fell nearly 76% to 330,954.
>> The island of Hawaii had 48,134 visitors in December, down from 177,912 visitors in 2019. Visitor spending for the month fell nearly 63% to $98 million. For the whole of 2020, arrivals fell by 72%, to 492,325.
>> In December, total trans-Pacific air capacity fell about 52% to 599,440 seats. Total statewide air capacity for the year fell 61.8% to 4.72 million seats due to air service cuts.
>> Most December visitors came from the Western United States (151,988, down 64%) and the Eastern United States (71,537, down 67%). Canada had 3,833 visitors, a drop of 94%, and only 1,889 visitors came from Japan, a drop of almost 99%.
>> For the full year, visitor arrivals by air from the Western United States fell by 72%, to 1.3 million, and by 70% from the East from the United States, to 676,061. Arrivals from Canada fell by 70%, to 161,201, and by 81% from Japan, to 297,243.
>> Hawaii recorded no cruise ship passengers in December due to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s do not sail order. In December 2019, 9,588 visitors flew in to board the cruise ship from Hawaii, and 11,313 visitors came to the islands on six out-of-state cruise ships. For all of 2020, 20 out-of-state cruise ships brought 29,792 visitors to the islands, compared to 68 cruise ships that carried 143,508 visitors in 2019. The total number of cruise passengers fell 81%, at 52,705.
Also on Thursday, the DOH again found itself defending its COVID vaccination program after the CDC released data showing Hawaii was one of 16 states that used less than half the doses than they received.
The CDC’s Vaccine Tracker shows Hawaii is administering 103,944 of the 226,700 doses — or 46% — distributed to the state by the federal government, based on data received Thursday morning.
The CDC numbers do not match data from the official DOH Weekly Immunization Report released Wednesday, showing 203,600 doses allocated, 170,975 received and 106,654 doses administered statewide Sunday.
Based on those numbers, Hawaii administered 52% of its allocations and 62% of the doses the state actually received. And Thursday’s unofficial daily vaccination tally totaled 127,419 doses administered on Wednesday.
Health officials were asked by state lawmakers about the vaccination rate during a legislative briefing on Tuesday.
DOH spokeswoman Janice Okubo said Thursday that the state is notified of its weekly federal vaccine allocation on Thursday, but may not receive the vaccines until Monday or Tuesday, possibly due to the logistics of their expedition to Hawaii. And from there, processing may take a few more days before the shots are given.
“The other challenge is that some vaccinators in Hawaii are delaying reporting to the national immunization administration management system that tracks the number of immunizations given (and forms the basis of the CDC’s Vaccine Tracker). The DOH is working with vaccinators across the state to reduce the time it takes for them to report their vaccination administration numbers,” Okubo said in an email.
Vaccinations across the islands have accelerated over the past two weeks with the opening of mass vaccination clinics at Pier 2 and Blaisdell Concert Hall in Honolulu and other programs. Additionally, the White House announced this week that it would increase the weekly supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses sent to states.