With transpacific travel set to re-open next week, Hawaii Tourism Authority’s newly named President and CEO John De Fries said he estimates that between now and the end of the year, visitor arrivals will be a fraction of what they once were.
“My estimate is we’re gonna have a daily average of about 5,000. Which is roughly 17% of what that daily average was a year ago. And I feel like it’s a small enough place to start so that we can perfect the systems that will protect the health and well-being of the workers and the work environment and the host environment that will host the guests,” he said.
De Fries acknowledged that with so many variables surrounding the pandemic, it is nearly impossible to project a true number with any certainty. While those 5,000 daily arrivals will not be enough to revive Hawaii’s economy, those visitors could be the start of the financial recovery the state so desperately needs. He added that travelers who come to Hawaii will have a very different experience than in pre-pandemic times.
“You will have sectors that are open, and closed. Your favorite restaurant may not be operational at this time. So my sense about the people that will invest in a trip, is that there’s some other reason that they’re compelled or motivated to come. It could be relationships, friendships, frankly it could just be a walk in nature that will make them feel revitalized,” he said.
Neighbor island mayors and others have called for a second test upon arrival, but the state is limited in testing capacity and the Governor has said that a second screening is not possible at this time. That has led to Hawaii Island Mayor Harry Kim to opt out of allowing arriving passengers to bypass the 14-day quarantine on the Big Island. Given that some passengers could enter the state carrying the coronavirus undetected, De Fries said he understands that not everyone will welcome visitors with open arms.
“You’ve got local folks who are excited to be back at work. And you’re always gonna have local folks that feel that this is just moving too fast. And we’re gonna have to try our best to try and find some semblance of harmony between that. It won’t be easy by we’ll find a way,” he said.
Spotlight Hawaii, which shines a light on issues affecting Hawaii, airs live 10:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Join Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies this month for a conversation with guests. Click here to watch previous conversations.