Questions remain about the future of reopening Hawaii tourism during COVID-19

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While we await the details of Hawaii’s pre-travel testing, many questions remain. Here are the latest updates from Hawaii’s officials along with questions many of our readers have.

Hawaii is experiencing record high COVID-19 cases

For three days in a row last week, Hawaii recorded new record high numbers of COVID-19 cases. The highest daily number so far is 73 cases recorded on July 25th. Through July 28th, Hawaii has recorded 1,757 cases with most of those (1,429 cases) being on Oahu.

“Travel bubble” between Japan and Hawaii a step closer

Hawaii has been in discussions with Japan to open a “travel bubble” between the two destinations. With both regions having relatively low COVID-19 infection rates, they feel that it’s safe to open a travel corridor between them with negative pre-testing and without quarantines. No timeline has been established. Read more about this topic here.

In a Facebook Live chat hosted by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Tuesday, July 28th, Lt. Gov. Green shared that Japanese tourists are desirable because although they represent somewhere between 15-20% of travelers to Hawaii, they produce 30% of all the economic activity. Additionally, he said that the Japanese are a “respectful, thoughtful and meticulous culture about these kind of things.”

Is Hawaii going to open to U.S. tourists with pre-travel, negative COVID-19 tests on September 1st? 

The September 1st reopening of tourism with a negative pre-travel COVID-19 test might be on shaky ground. As we mentioned last week, Hawaii (Big) Island Mayor Kim doesn’t think that Hawaii will be ready to reopen to tourists on September 1st. The mayor of Maui wants to re-enact the 14-day quarantine for inter-island travelers.

One huge hurdle that is indirectly related to reopening tourism is the start of the new school year. Currently, Hawaii is planning to open schools on August 4th, but many are concerned that’s too soon.

In regards to reopening tourism with other states in September, in a Facebook Live chat hosted by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Tuesday, July 28th, Lt. Gov. Green said,

September 1st, from a practical standpoint, we’re going to have to see what happens first with the schools and with these cases. I know that’s what the governor and General Hara and everyone is thinking. We don’t want to open up just to, you know, the kind of travelers that we don’t want, which are irresponsible travelers that come for the cheapest of flights that feel invulnerable. That’s what we drew some attention from when we talked about the initial reopening and we are worried still about the number of cases in a lot of different parts of the country. So, I think it’s going to be Japan first.” (If you want to watch this section of the chat, it roughly starts about 22 minutes into the video.)

I’m not sure how Hawaii’s leaders could have possibly gathered the sort of data that they can conclude that when they started talking about opening tourism, they drew the attention of “irresponsible travelers who come for the cheapest of flights that feel invulnerable.” How does one even conduct a survey to gather that sort of subjective data?

From our viewpoint, our readers have expressed that they are respectful of the rules and have indeed complied with them. Thousands have canceled or rescheduled their trips. Some have rescheduled multiple times. Many have expressed their willingness to pre-test to ensure their own and the community’s safety. Many had planned special occasion trips such as weddings, honeymoons, milestone birthdays and anniversaries. Those trips aren’t cheap.

We always share with you the very same advice that we would give to our own friends and family. Frankly, we are concerned about the continual vilification of visitors from the U.S.

When the pre-travel testing program opens, how can I get a test?

When the basic concept and timeline of the pre-travel testing program was announced, many people started to search for places where they could get tested, with little luck. That’s because the program has not started yet. In the same Facebook Live chat we’ve previously referenced, Lt. Gov. Green shed some light on this issue.

“CVS, Walgreens and Kaiser will allow anybody from any state to get tested if they’re traveling. There’ll be a travel provision in their protocols… We haven’t launched the program and people say “Hey, I went to CVS and they told me ‘No, I haven’t heard about this yet.'” Well, that’s because it hasn’t started, but that is the contractual provision that we have with our partners that they would test. Now, if it’s taking five days to get the test result back, it’s too long, but you get the test and once you get the test result and you are negative, you would go out of quarantine.” (If you want to watch this section of the chat, it roughly starts about 30 minutes into the video.)

14 comments
  1. Thank you for publishing this article. We have had to rebook my son’s wedding 3 times now. Just canceled it again for September and are hoping they let is come sometime in 2021. I am very disappointed about what they have stated about visitors from the mainland. My family goes to Hawaii every year and we spend a lot of money doing so. I really don’t appreciate that they feel we are cheap and disrespectful. That is not what aloha is about.

  2. I love Hawaii as much as anyone, but the way their government officials talk about travelers from the mainland makes me think I should spend my money elsewhere. Why make the big financial commitment required to go somewhere that doesn’t want me?

  3. We too love Hawaii, have also been going for the past 10 years and now it’s like wow! Just wow! Is that how you really feel about people from the Mainland? With us, it’s my daughter and I that go every year. We save the entire year for the trip. I mean we even leave a big daily tip for the Housekeepers and they come and find us and are so appreciative. We tip everyone big and we are NOT rich people, just two hard working souls that love Hawaii and enjoy going each year. We have respect for the people, the land, we do nothing we aren’t suppose to. There perception of us is so wrong and I consider that to be disrespectful. I don’t think in all my years of going to Hawaii, I’ve ever been cheap or disrespectful. So again, Wow!

  4. We visit Hawaii every year since the early 2000’s. We scrape and save our hard-earned money so we can return every year so that we can share in the aloha spirit of the people of Hawaii and the beauty of the islands.

    We have many choices to travel elsewhere in the world, but we choose Hawaii because it seems like home. This year, we have postponed our trip three times because we understand the concern about the importance containing the spread of COVID-19 there and at home. And we have the utmost respect for everyone including the people of Hawaii.

    I seriously think, and feel that the local people would never want to convey the message of mainland travelers are being reckless and disrespectful by coming to Hawaii on ‘cheap fares’ to increase the intentionally spread of this terrible virus. This has to be the opinion of very few in local government and tourism. And that really saddens me. Not only is it biased, it’s unfair.

    If this is to be true, then I seriously hope that you consider those who are running things in government and tourism to re-think about what is at stake for the local economy. Because shunning good and responsible people from the mainland US by making such irrational assumptions and opinions about whom are spending their hard-earned money on supporting tourism and the economy in this current state of the world, is quite appalling.

    There will be many other places to visit once we emerge from this terrible pandemic. We love Hawaii and it’s people and want to come back and support the recovery. I just hope that people who make these reckless statements can expect people outside of Hawaii to be loyal in the future after these statements.

    And if they cannot, that truly breaks my heart.

  5. I am curious what LG Green would say to defend the irresponsible locals that trashed Polihale last weekend. His comments about irresponsible tourists from the “cheapest” flights were offensive and unfortunately confirm my feelings about how many Hawaiians really feel about mainlanders. Maybe Japan can help the next time a disaster strikes Hawaii?

  6. Thank you for sticking up for US mainland visitors. We’ve been coming to Hawaii for 10 years now and for the last several years our flights alone have been $1000 each (east coast). We are very considerate of the aina and laws. We rescheduled our 10th anniversary trip from this summer to just after Thanksgiving but if we are no longer welcome we can cancel and find somewhere else to love. It will break my heart a little because we love Hawaii so much and literally count down the days in between trips. I think its awful to label us as undesirable. Did they forget Hawaii’s 1st covid case was from Japan?

  7. When the next hurricane hits, or other natural disaster, go to Japan for financial aid and don’t forget, you can also go to Japan for all the PPP loans and unemployment assistance you need during this pandemic. I think it is pathetic what is being said by government officials…pathetic! I hope not one mainland tourist ever goes to Hawaii again with their hard earned dollars!

  8. I’ve been visiting the islands regularly for the last 15 years. Although those of us commenting and I think a good number of people in general would be very respectful, I unfortunately know first hand of many people that would not be. These people are not wearing masks, maintaining social distances and some minimize the whole pandemic. It is highly unfair to lump us all into the category of irresponsible tourists looking for the cheap getaway but to be real, there are those that are disrespectful of others and its all over the news. I would be more than happy to adhere to the travel rules and be able to contribute to the economy there not because I’m wealthy (far from it) but because I want the world to regain some kind of normalcy again. I understand their trepidation but perhaps phrasing in a less insulting manner would be more appropriate. I have a trip planned in October. Tell me what guidelines I need to follow to make not only the community in Hawaii feel safer but myself as well.

  9. I loved the story about the volunteers chasing down the quarantine avoiders and having them arrested.

    You really want to make sure that mainlanders NEVER AGAIN GO TO HAWAII!!!!

  10. I find it interesting that they are a state in the United States and can make people quarantine when no other state is doing so How are they allowed to get away with this mandate. They are basically destroying the livelihood of those that live on the islands.

  11. I’ve been going to Hawaii since the seventies. There was an “houlie” culture back then, and probably before that. What makes anybody think that it has changed. Not all Hawaiian people think that mainlanders are bad, but a minority of the population does and they’re the vocal ones. Can we go along to get along, respect and appreciate each other as human beings sharing this small planet for a short time. Practice aloha and enjoy your vacation and enjoy the visitors supporting your economy.

  12. WOW!! Such racism coming out of the Hawaiian government officials mouths.
    This both sickens and saddens me. I concur with the other comments. Reach out to Japan the next time you need a “hand-up” Hawaii!

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