Christmas week brings high number of travelers to Hawaii

  • Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

More than 75,000 people arrived in Hawaii between Dec. 21 and Sunday despite the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases across the nation.

Of those 75,695 trans-Pacific travelers, more than 47,600 self-identified as traveling for vacation or pleasure and 8,876 as being residents of Hawaii, an analysis of passenger arrivals kept by the Hawaii Tourism Authority shows.

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Hawaii Island saw 11,783 people — or 15.6% of the 75,000-plus travelers — arrive at Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole. More than 9,500 of those arriving on the island’s leeward side said they were traveling for vacation or pleasure.

On Sunday alone, the state saw 13,332 people arrive from outside the state, with 7,660 of them indicating they came to Hawaii for vacation and 2,108 returning residents. Kona saw 2,000 people arrive that day, including 1,427 who indicated they came to the island for vacation.

Nationwide, a whopping 1,284,599 travelers were recorded at checkpoints by the Travel Security Administration on Sunday, marking the largest single-day total since mid-March, when the number of fliers greatly declined due to the coronavirus outbreak. Sunday was not the largest single-day total for Hawaii; Saturday was with 17,018 people arriving via trans-Pacific flights.

Sunday’s large number of airport visitors came two days after Christmas. Ahead of the holidays, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that traveling “can increase the chance of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.”

“Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others,” the CDC advised on a holiday guidelines page on its website.

The number of people recorded at TSA checkpoints plummeted toward the beginning of the pandemic, with the total frequently dipping below 100,000 air travelers during April, according to data released by the administration.

Those numbers have increased in the months since, however. Multiple days around Thanksgiving saw more than 1 million people at airport checkpoints in the U.S.

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Every day between Dec. 18 and Dec. 23, meanwhile, saw more than 950,000 air travelers at U.S. checkpoints, while 1,128,773 people were recorded on Saturday.

The New York Daily News contributed to this report.

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