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Hawaii arriving visitors top 400 again on Wednesday

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Beachgoers and tents are seen on the sand on May 29 in Waikiki.

    JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Beachgoers and tents are seen on the sand on May 29 in Waikiki.

Visitors to Hawaii topped 400 again Wednesday, according to statistics released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority today.

HTA reported today that 403 visitors came to Hawaii on Wednesday on 14 flights. The count dipped below Tuesday’s 419 visitors and Monday’s 462 visitors, which was the highest level since the trans-Pacific quarantine began on March 26.

Today marks 10 weeks since the out-of-state passenger quarantine began. It was extended to interisland flights on April 1 and will be lifted for interisland flights on June 16.

The out-of-state passenger quarantine is slated to end on June 30, but Gov. David Ige has indicated that he intends to extend it. So far, Ige and the four county mayors have not revealed a plan to reopen tourism broadly. While visitors have been able to come to Hawaii since the height of the COVID-19 concerns, the quarantine drastically dropped tourism demand to Hawaii, which saw tourism arrivals fall 99.5% in April.

Prior to the pandemic and tourism lockdowns, there were an average of 30,000 passengers a day in Hawaii. In all of April, HTA reported that only 4,564 visitors came to Hawaii.

Visitors only made up about 29% of the 1,394 passengers that arrived in Hawaii on Wednesday. Altogether there were also 401 returning residents, 171 airline crew members, 148 military members and 143 people that planned to relocate to Hawaii. There were 82 transit passengers who didn’t plan to leave the airport and another 46 people who had gotten permission to exempt the quarantine.

Most of the visitors, some 347, traveled to Oahu. However, Maui got 2o visitors and Lihue got 36.

Oahu visitors who answered a question about the purpose of their trip indicated that about 15% were coming for business, about 14% were coming for vacation and 73% were coming to see friends and family. The 347 visitors could select more than one purpose and nine people didn’t answer the question.

The 100 or so Hawaii hotels that remained open during the lockdown are anxiously awaiting the lifting of the interisland quarantine. However, the 130 or so Hawaii hotels that closed amid the pandemic aren’t expected to reopen until nearer to the lifting of the trans-Pacific quarantine.

The Department of Health and Major Gen. Kenneth Hara seem to hold the key to broader reopening decisions along with Ige and the four county mayors.

Some have suggested that Hawaii go the route of Alaska which plans to require a negative COVID-19 test as a condition for exempting their 14-day passenger quarantine.

Hawaii coud do this, too. However, tourism insiders say there is much that would have to be worked out. Some questions under consideration are:

>> What testing program would be considered sufficient?

>> Are there enough preferred tests to get started?

>> Who would pay for the test?

>> Who would conduct the screening and store the data?

Airlines want a national government-run testing program, which will take a while if it comes at all. Hotels want airlines to do it.

The state or a private entity could do it, but would have to get the green light from Ige.

Some have suggested that if Ige would only say that travelers could skip the quarantine with a negative test, travelers would find a way to do it themselves.

There’s discussion that a travel bubble agreement with Japan would require some sort of testing program and that might pave the way for a pilot testing program.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green along with some members of Hawaii’s visitor industry are pushing to institute a voluntary random testing program for passengers, which would allow Hawaii to start collecting COVID-19 travel related data.

Meanwhile, Hawaii tourism remains in limbo.

Assuming the visitor industry will start opening in September, state economist Eugene Tian has forecast Hawaii will host 3.4 million visitors in 2020, a decrease of 67.5% from the 2019 level.

If that proves correct, it means that over the next eight months, only 1.3 million more visitors are expected to come to Hawaii. Tian has said it could take tourism here six years to recover.

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