Island Tourism & the Potential of COVID Spread

From the Basil Labs team


Island Tourism & COVID

Despite restrictions, COVID-19 is making its way into island nations around the world. In many cases, the need to bolster the tourism economy is at odds with safeguarding the island and its residents. This is a delicate situation — for island nations, the tourism industry is often at the periphery of countless other sectors. Islands like Jamaica have adopted mandatory screenings of visitors upon arrival and Hawaiʻi has required a 14-day quarantine on arrival.


Research Questions

We wanted to understand two variables in regards to COVID and island tourism:

  1. How far do hotel visitors travel across an island?
  2. Why do they go where they go?

These questions not only help inform us of how to market to potential tourists — illustrating what they value and where they go — but also help us understand the potential spread of COVID-19 throughout islands via the tourists who tend to venture from their hotels, hostels or resorts.

Maui and Sicily

Though an unconventional pairing, Maui and Sicily provide two unique looks at where and why visitors travel throughout the islands.


While there are a million things to be said about the vibrancy of both places, we are going to skip over the opening synopses about both islands — just know that both are unique places in the world, with a mixture of natural attractions, culture and more that draw millions of international and local tourists.


We randomly selected three popular resorts/hotels in both Maui and Sicily as the focus of our study. Our analysis was powered by BasilCX, our in-house engine that aggregates and transforms millions of community-generated data points — online, geolocated reviews, and social media posts — into concise analytics through AI.

Our selection included:

  • UNAHOTELS Naxos Beach Sicilia
  • Città del Mare Hotel Village
  • VOI Arenella Resort
  • Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea
  • Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa
  • Andaz Maui At Wailea Resort - a concept by Hyatt


Where Visitors Go and What They Value

What do hotel/resort travelers value the most at their resorts and hotels in Maui and Sicily? Staff and service, the food, the beach and pool, and nearby places.

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However, the resort/hotel is only one aspect of a guest’s trip — car and scooter rentals enable travelers to explore. Pre-COVID, this would never be a worry for federal and local governments. But the potential spread of COVID-19, brought in by individuals residing in countries with higher rates of the virus, will undoubtedly reshape policies regarding car rentals and travel within the islands.


Further compounding this problem is the issue of inter-island and domestic travel to and from Sicily and Maui. For Maui and the Hawaiʻian islands, inter-island travel is a reality of the area — the question will be whether the ability to travel like this will be extended to visitors coming from mainland US and internationally. For Sicily, much of the tourist economy is powered by local tourists coming from different regions of the nation — explaining the many arcs on Italy’s mainland (most likely locals who have traveled to nearby cities as well as visiting Sicily).

Focusing in on Maui, there are over 230 types of locations that guests of the resorts/hotels in our study have visited around the island. If we hone in on the most frequent groupings of location types, we are able to map out what kinds of places make visitors travel around the island.


Similarly, there are over 290 types of locations that guests of the three hotels/resorts in our study visit. Like Maui, the locations in Sicily take travelers across the entire island via outdoor, shopping and activities, lodging and restaurant locations.


Taking Action With Our Insights

There are two main areas for action through our insights.

  1. Develop stronger marketing campaigns to attract tourists, based on which consumer perceptions are most salient to consumers in a post-COVID landscape.
  2. Create pre-established COVID-safe routes or bring certain experiences closer to visitors’ lodgings in order to minimize the spread of COVID to local communities.

This article is meant as a conversation-starter around understanding what draws in tourists and what they value as they experience a place like Maui or Sicily. If you’re interested in learning more or would be interested in playing with the interactive versions of these visualizations, reach out to us below.

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