Hawaii ready for return of tourism as pandemic worries ease

People relax on the beach in Waikiki in Honoluluin 2017. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s tourism industry is starting to see a rebound as people return to travel and coronavirus concerns ease.

Data from the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism shows March domestic arrivals have been on par with 2019 levels, Hawaii News Now reported Friday.

A record 10 million people arrived in the state in 2019.

When the pandemic hit, Hawaii was the only state in the nation to require negative COVID tests or vaccinations to avoid quarantine, effectively ending tourism for most of 2020 and much of 2021.

The new numbers are still without much tourism from Japan, one of Hawaii’s largest markets.

“We know there’s pent-up demand,” said Mufi Hannemann of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association. “People want to be able to travel because they’ve been cooped up.”

The high demand is being met with Hawaii’s limited supply, driving up costs.

“Normally there would be much more inventory available,” said Bruce Fisher of Hawaii Aloha Travel. “And now they’re asking premium prices for the same thing that you would’ve gotten a lot cheaper before.”

Airplane and rental car gasoline prices are also high, increasing costs for potential tourists.