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Business travel has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels in Hawaiʻi

Casey Harlow / HPR
FILE - Hawaiʻi Convention Center

The state’s tourism industry is almost back to pre-pandemic levels. But there is one market that is expected to still lag behind.

A new report from the American Hotel and Lodging Association is projecting business travel in the state to end the year 25% lower than in 2019.

That would represent a loss of nearly $400 million from pre-pandemic levels.

According to the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, business travel — meaning meetings, conferences and incentives — accounted for 5% of the overall visitor industry prior to the pandemic.

But hotels benefit greatly from this sector, primarily from events with 250 or more guests and activities that mostly stay on the property.

While in Hawaiʻi last year, AHLA president Chip Rogers told members of the press that business travel was key for hotels to survive the pandemic, and that success or failure would have lasting effects.

But there is good news. With the last of the state’s COVID restrictions expiring, meetings and conferences are also expected to slowly come back to the islands.

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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