After a decade of steady growth in visitor arrivals following the Great Recession, Hawaii set a record in 2019 with 10.4 million visitors. The Covid-19 pandemic wiped out those gains and then some, with 2020 registering the fewest number of visitors to the Aloha State since the mid-1970s.
Hawaii started 2020 on pace to set another record, but the first flight cancellations related to the pandemic occurred in February and were soon followed by the CDC's No Sail Order for cruise ships on March 14. Three days later, Gov. David Ige requested those scheduled to visit the Islands in the coming weeks postpone their trips. The shutdown began in earnest on March 26.
Total visitor arrivals in 2020 fell to 2.7 million, down 74% compared with 2019, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. The last time fewer than 3 million visitors came to Hawaii was 1975, according to Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism statistics. Total visitor days fell 68% from 2019 to 2020.
Beginning Oct. 15, passengers arriving from out-of-state could bypass the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine with a negative result on a Covid-19 test result from a state-approved testing partner. At the beginning of December, Kauai County temporarily suspended its participation in the state's Safe Travels program, making it mandatory for all travelers to Kauai to quarantine upon arrival. On Dec. 10 the mandatory quarantine was reduced from 14 to 10 days.
A spike in coronavirus cases on the U.S. mainland led to renewed restrictions on businesses and movement at the end of 2020, including in California, the state that sends the most visitors to Hawaii.
Visitation in December was 75% below that of the last month of 2019 and total visitor days declined 67% compared to December 2019, slightly better than the 77% drop in visitors in November year-over-year, but a marked improvement over the 90% reduction in visitors for October 2020.