The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, which markets Hawaii to U.S. travelers, is asking publications not to promote travel to Hawaii.
HVCB President and CEO John Monahan made the request in a letter sent Monday to 130 top publications, editors and freelancers who cover and write about Hawaii. It also was sent to about 40 publications in the travel trade and meetings, convention and incentives markets.
“We humbly ask that you and/or your publication(s) refrain from publishing any stories about Hawaii that might encourage people to travel to the islands,” Monahan said in the letter from the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s top marketing contractor.
“It is our responsibility to ensure the safety of visitors and residents alike, and therefore request that anything written about Hawaii strongly discourages travelers from visiting Hawaii until otherwise directed by our state officials,” Monahan said.
He explains that Hawaii, as the most isolated landmass on the planet, requires a complex distribution system to get needed goods and services.
“We also have on any given day 250,000 of our valued visitors, an almost 20% increase in our population. Our greatest fear is that this unprecedented pandemic will overwhelm our health care system for locals and visitors alike,” Monahan said. “We eagerly await the time when we can welcome visitors back to our shores and look forward to connecting with you then.”
Monahan’s appeal comes as the number of visitors is rising again despite a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine to stem the spread of the new coronavirus. It also comes as the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii (VASH) kicks off an HTA-funded COVID-19 flight assistance program.
On Monday VASH paid to send two homeless men back to Los Angeles after enhanced security checks at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport determined that they did not have a place to stay to complete the quarantine. Visitors to Hawaii are required to bear all quarantine expenses, including lodging and food delivery.
VASH President and CEO Jessica Lani Rich said an airline partner paid to send another homeless man back home to Los Angeles. That man had flown into Honolulu but wasn’t caught until he got off an interisland flight on Maui.
There has been a recent rise in visitor counts.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority said Monday’s trans-Pacific passenger count was 513, including 133 visitors and 182 residents. The count also included 127 airline crew members, 22 transit passengers and 46 intended new residents for Oahu and three for Kona.
The number of visitors Sunday was 126; it was 106 Saturday, 94 Friday and 89 Thursday.
Since March 26, when Gov. David Ige instituted a 14-day mandatory self-quarantine for all arriving trans-Pacific passengers, 1,735 visitors have come into the state. That quarantine was expanded Wednesday to include interisland travelers. A count of interisland passengers is not yet available.
Violations of the quarantine mandate are a misdemeanor with fines up to $5,000 and/or up to one year in prison.
Normally at this time of year, roughly 360,000 visitors would have come between March 26 and April 6.