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Lower Forecasts for Business and Leisure Travel Amid COVID-19 Surge

Skitterphoto from Pixabay

As recently as early August, an analysis by The Business Journals found that domestic flights for December were scheduled to number 751,229 nationwide — about 2% higher than what was recorded during the same period in 2019.

By late August, some 30,000 flights disappeared from that estimate and the numbers have continued to drop since then.

American, Southwest, Frontier and Spirit airlines have all walked back revenue expectations for that month, citing the recent global rise in COVID cases.

Airport hubs will feel this the most, such as Atlanta which lost 12% of projected flights, and Chicago O’Hare, which lost 6%.

What does this drop off, especially in business travel, mean for Hawaiʻi?

Kalani Kaʻanāʻanā, chief brand officer at Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, says a tough shoulder season for one thing, given that most Hawaiʻi travel right now is dometic.

Normally, international travel and business travel, spread throughout the year, softens the dips in our more seasonal domestic market — and that won’t be the case this year.

Hotels nationwide are seeing their own wave of cancellations or declining bookings.

Here at home, Kekoa McClellan, spokesperson for the American Hotel & Lodging Association–Hawaii has seen some hotel occupancies in the islands drop from the 90s, percentagewise, last month to the high 40s for next month. Business has fallen off by half.

Tourism experts we spoke to are looking ahead to 2022, even as far out as 2024, for a healthy return of business and meetings travel to Hawaiʻi.

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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