At the start of Hawaiʻi’s pre-travel COVID-19 testing program on October 15, more than 8,000 trans-Pacific passengers flew into the state compared to an average of fewer than 2,000 the week before. But how many of these passengers should be counted as tourists/visitors?
A University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization (UHERO) article published on November 6, suggests using daily trans-Pacific passenger arrival data provided by the Safe Travels Hawaiʻi program to estimate the number of deplaning visitors, since it would provide higher-frequency visitor data than monthly estimates currently provided by the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority.
The higher-frequency data would provide a more detailed picture of how tourist travel is responding to policy changes, such as pre-travel testing, according to authors James Mak, UHERO research fellow and emeritus professor of economics, and Carl Bonham, UHERO executive director and professor of economics.
Safe Travels Hawaiʻi was launched on September 1, by the State Office of Enterprise Technology Services. The program collects health and passenger information digitally and is mandatory for all travelers entering the state.
While the state has seen a spike in visitors since the launch of the pre-travel testing program, the numbers are drastically lower than the daily average of more than 25,000 per day in October 2019. UHERO estimates that the pre-travel testing program alone will not bring visitors back quickly and in large numbers.
UHERO is housed in the UH Mānoa College of Social Sciences.