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Arriving visitors on Monday hit highest mark since tourism lockdowns began

  • SGT. JOHN SCHOEBEL/ARMY NATIONAL GUARD VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Hawaii Army National Guard Spc. James Kamaka, 1st Squadron, 299th Cavalry, screened a passenger at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

    SGT. JOHN SCHOEBEL/ARMY NATIONAL GUARD VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Hawaii Army National Guard Spc. James Kamaka, 1st Squadron, 299th Cavalry, screened a passenger at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

The number of out-of-state visitors coming to Hawaii rose for the sixth day in a row Monday to reach the highest level since the islands instituted tourism lockdowns.

On Monday, 462 visitors arrived in Hawaii on 20 trans-Pacific flights. Some 403 of the visitors traveled to Oahu, with 41 traveling to Maui and 18 to Kona. The visitors made up about 30% of the overall 1,528 passengers.

Visitor counts have waxed and waned since March 26 when the state began a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for incoming passengers. However, they’ve been on the rise again recently.

Also traveling to Hawaii on Monday were 440 returning residents and 181 people who were relocating to Hawaii. Some 156 passengers were flight crew members and another 81 people were in transit to other destinations and didn’t plan to leave the airport. Some 129 were military members. Also arriving were 89 people who were exempted from the quarantine.

At this time last year, about 30,000 people were arriving in Hawaii daily, but the numbers all but zeroed out after Gov. David Ige ordered the trans-Pacific passenger quarantine, which was extended to the neighbor islands on April 1.

Only 4,564 visitors traveled to Hawaii last month, according to Hawaii Tourism Authority preliminary statistics.

That’s a 99.5% drop compared to a year ago when 856,250 visitors came by air and cruise ship. HTA did not provide a spending estimate for this April’s visitors, but it would have been minuscule compared to the $1.3 billion that visitors to Hawaii spent in April 2019.

Ige announced Monday that he will lift the interisland passenger quarantine on June 16. He has said he intends to extend the trans-Pacific passenger quarantine beyond its June 30 expiration date.

Only 403 passengers indicated the purpose of their trip on Monday when they filled out the state Department of Transportation’s mandatory travel declaration form, which is used to help officials enforce the quarantine.

Of those people, only 5, or 1%, said they were coming for business. Some 6% — 23 people — said they were coming on vacation, with the bulk of the respondents, some 263, or 65%, indicating they were visiting friends or family. The numbers don’t add up because 17 passengers left the question blank and respondents are allowed to make more than one choice.

The DOT’s new mandatory travel declaration form does not include a question about the type of accommodation, which has led to complaints by some residents that fear some visitors might be staying in short-term vacation rentals, where stays are still banned by emergency orders.

The Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii assists visitors who want to go home because of the quarantine or have been caught breaking the quarantine and have been ordered to get home.

So far, since April 6, VASH has assisted 62 visitors in getting home through the COVID-19 Flight Assistance program, which is funded by the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

VASH president and CEO Jessica Lani Rich said the organization sent a 40-year-old man home Monday to Boise, Idaho, after he was caught trying to circumvent the quarantine on Oahu. The man, who had planned to go to a neighbor island, was apprehended before he could get there because he didn’t have a place to stay to complete the 14-day quarantine or any money to book a place, Rich said.

“He was told he could go back home but refused to get on the plane so he spent a night in jail. The Attorney General’s Office called me yesterday after his hearing to say he had decided to go home so I helped get him on a plane last night,” Rich said.

Rich said she’s made plans to send two more visitors home tonight.

“We’re seeing more people coming here so we’re sending more people home,” Rich said. “We’re catching people breaking the quarantine. Some of them are arriving without making arrangements, others are blatantly breaking the quarantine and posting pictures on social media.”

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