Hawaii sees busiest travel day since start of pandemic in US

HONOLULU — More tourists traveled to Hawaii on Saturday than the state has seen in a single day since the start of the pandemic.

About 26,400 trans-Pacific and interisland travelers were screened by the state’s Safe Travels program on Saturday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Tuesday.

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That’s Hawaii’s busiest day since coronavirus restrictions caused travel to plummet last year.

Data compiled by the Hawaii Tourism Authority showed that about 18,700 travelers were flying on Saturday for vacation or pleasure.

The Transportation Security Administration said Friday was its busiest screening day since March 15, 2020 with nearly 1.36 million people going through airport checkpoints in the United States.

The increase coincides with spring break and more vaccinations.

On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 100 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the U.S.

“I feel very good about traveling here. You guys are being very conscious about having people tested or, if they haven’t been tested, having to quarantine,” said Jackie Bornstein, a visitor from Los Angeles who arrived Monday in Honolulu.

She said she is now fully vaccinated and was confident in coming to Hawaii because the state’s testing program and low infection rates.

“I’m here for eight days this time. There’s no doubt I’ll be back,” Bornstein said. “I have a son that lives in Texas. I’m not so comfortable going there where there are no masks.”

Travel to the Hawaii is still well below pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, Hawaii had a record 10.4 million arrivals.

“Our advance bookings are very strong and getting stronger,” Keith Vieira, principal of KV &Associates, Hospitality Consulting. “Hotels are seeing continued pickup all the way through summer, which we think could run as high as 50% occupancy. We’re hearing from guests that they want to travel and that Hawaii is probably their most trusted destination.”

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Still, tourism is expected to struggle in Hawaii for years to come.

“We won’t be back to 2019 levels even by 2022 because we’ve had too many group cancellations,” Vieira said. “We also need to get international visitors back.”

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