Paul Yonamine, executive chairman of Central Pacific Bank, joined the COVID-19 Care Conversation to discuss travel bubbles.
Yonamine said that the success of the bank is entirely dependent on the success of its customers. He explained that customers are hurting right now, largely due to the shutdown of tourism. This is what motivated him to get involved in discussions about how the state can revive the economy, specifically through the launch of travel bubbles. Yonamine and other business and community leaders in the private sector are urging government officials to consider a travel bubble agreement with low infection rate regions such as Japan.
A travel bubble or travel corridor would consist of two regions coming together to determine a travel agreement that would be beneficial for both. For example, Yonamine said that China and Singapore have an agreement where travelers need to be tested at the departure airport as well as the arrival airport. He feels that establishing a travel bubble agreement with low infection rate destinations, such as Japan, would help to restart the state’s tourism economy.
Yonamine explained that according to Japan, the United States is considered a level three country for COVID-19 infections due to its high infection rate, which requires quarantine for travelers. “If there was a possibility of stripping out Hawaii and just looking at the infection rate in Hawaii, that would be level one in Japan,” Yonamine said. “That would require no quarantine. That would be the optimal scenario.”
The hope is that travel bubble agreements with specific low infection rate regions could serve as a starting point for reopening tourism. Yonamine shared that it’s important to build public confidence that travel to Hawaii can happen safely because tourism is critical to helping the people and economy survive. There are “150,000 people who don’t have jobs today,” he said. “Unfortunately unless we open up tourism again, my sense is that by September and October it’s going to really start hurting.”
The timing on when a travel bubble with another region could be launched is undetermined.
Gov. David Ige has recently initiated conversations with Japan. “What’s most important is that we engage with the respective regional heads, get into that dialogue and do what we are good at, sell Hawaii,” Yonamine said.
Watch here and comment on our Facebook page. Join tomorrow when Dr. Jonathan Paladino from Straub Medical Center will be our guest.
The COVID-19 Care Conversation, sponsored by Hawai’i Executive Collaborative and Hawaii Pacific Health, airs live every weekday at 10:30 a.m. on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Yunji de Nies and Ryan Kalei Tsuji discuss the latest news, resources and community concerns about the coronavirus outbreak in Hawaii.