Hawaii tourism experienced a summer surge in 2021, with nearly 2.5 million travelers visiting the state between June 21 and Sept. 22.
In total, 2,338,658 travelers came to Hawaii over the official summer season. July was the strongest month, with 906,654 total visitors, and July 31 was the busiest day, with 32,445 travelers arriving on the islands.
While the numbers don’t match the 2,756,516 people who visited Hawaii during the summer of 2019, they are a massive improvement over 2020, when the pandemic pushed arrivals below 65,000.
Summer arrivals might have been even higher if the highly contagious delta variant hadn’t reared its deadly head.
On Aug. 23, Hawaii Gov. David Ige asked tourists to delay travel plans until at least the end of October to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“Our hospitals are reaching capacity, and our ICUs are filling up,” Ige said. “Now is not a good time to travel to Hawaii.”
The announcement slowed tourism over the final weeks of summer.
In October 2020, the state reopened to travelers under a strict COVID-19 testing and quarantine program called Safe Travels. The initiative sparked a steady rise in tourism, while also keeping COVID cases largely in check.
However, in July, officials dropped testing and quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated tourists. Soon after, coronavirus infections started to skyrocket.
The week before travel restrictions were lifted, Hawaii reported a seven-day average of 46 cases. By early September, the daily average had jumped to almost 900.
Cases are now decreasing again, but some medical experts have been pushing state officials to implement a two-test protocol for all incoming travelers, claiming that single pre-travel tests miss too many infections.
“There are a lot of holes,” Dr. Darragh O’Carroll, an emergency department doctor in Honolulu, told ABC News. “The science has been fairly conclusive since probably June of 2020 that a single-test system was no more effective than 30 to 40% in catching a population of infected people.”
In March, the medical journal The Lancet published a study that showed a two-test protocol paired with a short quarantine identified over 70% of COVID-infected travelers.
To date, Hawaii officials have declined to change the state’s testing requirements for passenger arrivals.