TORONTO — If there’s one takeaway from Hawaii at the moment, it’s this: book your clients early.
Devin Kinasz, Travelweek’s publisher who visited the Island of Hawaii, Maui and Oahu from June 4 to July 5, witnessed for herself the much talked-about pent-up demand that travel experts have been touting throughout the pandemic, reporting while on location over 85% occupancy rates at approximately a dozen hotels, sold out land tours and jam-packed beaches. Hawaii, with relaxed travel restrictions, reasonable airfares, fantastic travel deals and low COVID-19 case numbers, is seeing a welcome return to tourism since the start of the global pandemic. And with increased connectivity from Canada this winter with Air Canada and WestJet, the sun-soaked destination is anticipating a healthy number of Canadians, too.
“This winter in particular, Hawaii has the best connectivity with Canada with an increased number of seats and new routes, bringing the destination closer to Ontario and Quebec, as well as service to the four major islands from Alberta and B.C.,” Lorenzo Campos, Account Director for Hawaii Tourism Canada at VoX International. “Canadians can now fly nonstop with multi-island itineraries, giving travellers an opportunity to experience each island, from modern and cosmopolitan Oahu with a town & country vibe, to rejuvenating and laidback Kauai, diverse Hawaii Island, and quiet and traditional Molokai, amongst other beautiful islands.”
Last month, WestJet announced Dreamliner service from Western Canada to Maui and new nonstop service from Calgary to Kona and Lihue this winter. In total, 57 weekly roundtrip flights will be available on 10 nonstop routes between Canada and Hawaii with WestJet, more than any other airline.
Air Canada, meanwhile, will launch its first Montreal-Honolulu and Toronto-Maui flights this winter, both of which complement its longstanding services from Calgary and Vancouver to the Hawaiian Islands.
Increased connectivity, coupled with eased travel measures for fully vaccinated travellers, will position the destination for a reasonably healthy winter season. As of July 8, 2021, travellers fully vaccinated in the United States or its Territories can enter Hawaii on domestic flights without pre-travel testing or quarantining, starting the 15th day after the completion of their vaccination. Plus, as part of the state’s ‘Safe Travels Hawaii’ program, travellers from Canada have been able to bypass the state’s mandatory 10-day quarantine since mid-December 2020 when presenting a negative COVID-19 test result from a lab identified by Air Canada or WestJet prior to departure. And since June 15, 2021, all passengers who are not in quarantine have been free to travel between the islands without restrictions.
“Hawaii is and always has been a very popular destination with Canadians,” added Campos. “The destination has been perceived as a ‘safe’ destination due to its quick and early control of COVID-19, and this has drawn the attention of Canadians. Nonetheless, Canadians, as any other traveller and local, will still have to follow certain protocols while they are in the Hawaiian Islands as Hawaii continues to assure their residents and visitors are healthy.”
Of course, with visitor numbers on the rise and tourism businesses gradually going back online following months of temporary closures, travellers can anticipate sold out or limited supply of offerings, particularly car rentals, on the Islands at first.
Said Kinasz of her recent visit: “While I was on the Island of Hawaii, the entire city of Kona was entirely sold out one Saturday night, with all hotels and Airbnbs fully booked. Car rentals were also hard to come by, as were restaurant reservations. It’s obvious that Hawaii is bouncing back in a big way, with daily life returning to normal for the most part.
“The overwhelming takeaway from my trip is that Canadians need to book early if they plan to get some sun this winter. And with extremely flexible cancellation policies right now, there simply is no excuse to delay your trip to the Aloha State.”
WHAT HAWAII’S HOTELS ARE SAYING
During her stay, Kinasz met with several top hotels, many of which reported fully booked weekend occupancies. Strong booking numbers prove that it’s business as usual, said Charles Head, General Manager of Fairmont Orchid, who told Kinasz that all food and beverage outlets are now open along with the hotel’s award-winning, open-air Spa Without Walls and adjacent Mauna Lani Golf Course.
“At a time such as this, people have a pent-up desire to travel to a place where they can leave feeling changed for the better,” said Head. “We have remained wholeheartedly committed to the safety and wellbeing of our guests and colleagues, and we’ve taken great care to ensure from an operational perspective that our extensive health and safety protocols are consistently in alignment with the State and County of Hawaii’s health and safety mandates.”
Noting how travel demand for Hawaii has continued to rise at a faster pace than initially anticipated, Head recommends visitors book rental cars and dining reservations in advance of their stay.
“It’s best to have everything booked in advance as opposed to feeling disappointed upon arrival,” he added. “As a Canadian, I particularly look forward to welcoming more of our valued Canadian visitors as the country opens up and enjoys a successful vaccine rollout. I’ve found that Hawaii Island resonates especially well with our Canadian guests because there’s so much outdoor adventure, natural beauty and gracious hospitality to be enjoyed.”
Asami Sam Arita, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Hoshino Resorts/The Surfjack Hotel, referred to this time in Hawaii’s recovery as “a perfect storm,” with all necessary elements coming into play at the exact same time.
“When I say perfect storm, I mean that airfares are reasonable, we have a lot of hotels offering great rates, and Hawaii has a very low COVID rate. All this make people feel safe. People want beach destinations so they can relax and forget about all the stress of the past year,” said Arita. “So much leisure is coming back right now, especially from the West Coast mainland, as many states have been opening up and Hawaii gradually relaxes travel restrictions.”
And speaking for Napili Kai Beach Resort, Sales and Marketing Manager Melissa Simpson told Kinasz that she’s seeing huge interest from the Canadian market.
“We have so many loyal repeat visitors from Canada and they are eagerly awaiting to come back and visit our hotel again,” she said. “We know from speaking with agents and guests in Canada that they are more and more eager to come back and visit Hawaii as soon as possible. We have already booked many of them again for the 2021 holidays and into 2021, including some big groups.”
For the most up-to-date information on travel to and within Hawaii, go to www.hawaiicovid19.com/travel.