The run-up in visitors flying into Hawaii continues — but new data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority shows that even more would likely come if the quarantine were lifted.
Hawaii has seen a travel resurgence since spring break travelers began appearing. The seven-day average of trans-Pacific travelers was 20,330 as another 19,491 travelers flew into Hawaii on Monday. March’s average daily trans-Pacific traveler screenings, through Monday, rose to nearly 16,463.
While Hawaii’s tourism industry is officially rebounding, numbers could be soaring even higher. HTA on Tuesday released the results of a special traveler-tracking study that showed that 78% of travelers who visited Hawaii from Feb. 12 to 28 would recommend visiting Hawaii within the next six months. However, if the quarantine were lifted, 90% of respondents said they would recommend traveling to Hawaii in the next six months.
HTA’s Tourism Research Division partnered with Anthology Research to conduct the online survey this month. In general, the survey found that visitors rated Safe Travels Hawaii, the state’s pre-travel testing experience, six points higher than they had in a December study.
As many as 85% of the February travelers said the test requirements went smoothly for them. The top traveler complaints about the testing program were that the 72-hour testing window was unreasonable (51%), finding a trusted testing partner was challenging (28%) and the test was too expensive (24%).
Jack Richards, president and CEO of the travel seller Pleasant Holidays, said Hawaii’s travel pre-test hasn’t been as big of a competitive disadvantage since mid-January, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test to all air passengers entering the United States.
“We saw a share shift to Hawaii in February after CDC made the announcement,” Richards said. “But if there were a vaccination passport instead of testing or quarantining, that would be huge.”
Lt. Gov. Josh Green and others have championed a vaccine passport that would allow those with proof that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID to bypass Hawaii’s quarantine and pre-testing travel requirements.
But some people have been reluctant to see tourism numbers increase in Hawaii or other parts of the nation, where the U.S. coronavirus-related death toll is over 550,000 and the nationwide infection tally is over 30.4 million.
There’s some concern that travelers could contribute to rising COVID-19 cases. After all, the CDC still isn’t recommending leisure travel.
That hasn’t changed. However, the CDC has gotten more optimistic about the effectiveness of vaccines as a preventive tool.
During an MSNBC interview with Rachel Maddow on Monday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said, “Our data from the CDC today suggest, you know, that vaccinated people do not carry the virus, don’t get sick. It’s not just in the clinical trials, but it’s also in real-world data.”
Green said Monday on Spotlight Hawaii that he’s not worried about travel- related cases in Hawaii, which has the lowest rate of COVID in the country. Green said most Hawaii cases come from community spread.
Green said the odds of community spread will decrease as Hawaii moves toward herd immunity. According to Tuesday’s Hawaii COVID-19 Vaccine Summary, 27% of the state’s population has received at least one dose.
State Department of Health officials Tuesday reported 71 new coronavirus infections statewide, bringing the state’s total since the start of the pandemic to 29,581 cases. State health officials reported no new coronavirus-related deaths as the statewide death toll remained at 462.
Health officials also said Tuesday that of the state’s total infection count, 1,175 cases were considered active.
By island, Oahu has 645 active cases, Maui has 338, the Big Island has 116, Molokai has six, Kauai has four and Lanai has one.
According to the latest information from the department’s Hawaii COVID- 19 Data dashboard, 43 patients with the virus were in Hawaii hospitals as of Monday morning, with nine in intensive care units and three on ventilators.