The tourists keep coming even though the state still hasn’t officially reopened Hawaii tourism.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority reported on Monday that 467 of the 2,533 passengers that flew into Hawaii on 27 flights were visitors. Other passengers included: 991 returning residents, 150 people that planned to relocate to Hawaii, and 260 military members. There also were 316 airline flight crew members and 116 transit passengers, who did not plan to leave the airport. Some 234 individuals had quarantine exemptions.
Monday’s visitor arrivals were the lowest daily count since June 30 when 436 passengers flew into Hawaii. Passenger counts kept rising after June 30 until they hit 937 on July 2, the highest daily level since March 26 when the state implemented a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for out-of-state passengers.
Counts have waxed and waned since the start of the quarantine. There was noticeably lesser travel demand for Hawaii after travelers were told that they were required to confine themselves in a designated location for two weeks after arriving or face up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
After peaking on July 2, visitor arrivals fell every day through July 5 and then started a series of up and down movements until July 9 when they began falling again.
Normally on any given day in Hawaii in July, some 35,000 passengers arrive, most of them visitors. In July 2019, some 997,872 visitors arrived on planes.
In March, the month that COVID-19 fears accelerated in the U.S. and lockdowns began in Hawaii, 434,856 visitors still came to Hawaii.
By April visitor arrivals had fallen to 4,564. While counts are still dismally low, they’ve rallied some as Hawaii has headed into its traditional peak summer travel period. In May, 9,116 visitors arrived and there were 13,862 in June. In the first 13 days of this month, 8,663 visitors had arrived.
The rise hasn’t been high enough to keep Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy from falling off a cliff. Yet, it’s disconcerting to state and county officials, who have declared that Hawaii is off-limits to non-essential travelers.
From April 6 to July 12, the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii has used a COVID-19 Flight Assistance program to help send 157 visitors home that were unprepared to quarantine.
“As visitor counts rise, we’ve noticed there are more quarantine violators coming,” said VASH President and CEO Jessica Lani Rich. “On Saturday, we sent five visitors home, including a woman from Seattle who had no plans to quarantine and wouldn’t wear a mask at the airport.”
Stories like these, along with an uptick in coronavirus cases in Hawaii and a huge increase in some mainland states, are a key reason that government officials decided to delay an Aug. 1 pre-arrivals testing plan that would have allowed Hawaii tourism to reopen.
Gov. David Ige said it will be September 1 before the state begins a program to allow passengers with approved negative COVID-19 tests taken within 72 hours of their trip to Hawaii to bypass the state’s mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for out-of-state passengers.
Ige also said he plans to extend a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for out-of-state passengers to at least Aug. 31. Tourism numbers have been free-falling since Ige ordered the out-of-state passenger quarantine on March 26. Interisland travel got a bit of a boost on June 16 when Ige ended an interisland passenger quarantine, but not enough to entice many hotels that had temporarily shuttered during the tourism lockdown to reopen.