HONOLULU (AP) — New federal rules for international travelers are expected to help Hawaii’s crippled tourism industry.
The state’s international market has been almost non-existent since the pandemic largely halted travel last year.
Last week, the White House relaxed rules that previously barred some foreign travelers from coming to the United States. Foreign visitors can now come with proof of vaccination and negative COVID-19 tests.
Hawaii administered 2 million doses of vaccine. Despite this important step, Governor David Ige is not yet ready to ease the restrictions.
Unvaccinated US citizens and residents may also travel to the United States from other countries, but must test twice — once before travel and again after arrival.
Honolulu’s Star Advertiser reported Monday that the changes could revive international travel to the islands. It is down 97% from before the pandemic.
Currently, Hawaii only requires proof of vaccination or one pre-flight test for continental US travelers. The state had also allowed travel with the same rules from certain countries, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Canada, Tahiti and the Philippines.
Some see the new rules as more restrictive for Japanese travelers, a major component of Hawaii’s tourism industry.
Dave Erdman, president of a Pacific marketing firm, said Japanese media portrayed the new rules differently from US media. The new policy adds a step for Japanese travelers by requiring vaccinations upon entry.
“In the US/Hawaii, media described the change as a ‘loosening’ of restrictions for travelers wishing to come to the US. But Japanese media described the change as a ‘tightening’ of US restrictions,” a Erdman said.
Japan and other key markets for Hawaii tourism have high vaccination rates and officials expect that trend to continue in the coming months.
“Hawaii’s major international source markets are on track to surpass U.S. vaccination levels – so this will be opportune for safe travel,” said Danny Ojiri, vice president of market development for Outrigger Hospitality Group, a Honolulu-based luxury hotel chain and management company. . “After a slow start at the start of the year, Japan’s vaccination effort has progressed at a steady pace; currently 55% are fully immunized and 67% are receiving their first shot. »
Ojiri added, “The Japanese population is expected to be at least 75% vaccinated by November.”
Hawaiian Airlines spokesman Alex Da Silva said the company was “ready to resume routes once restrictions ease and demand returns.”
“The announcement is welcome news and an important step toward reactivating travel to the United States — and Hawaii — from additional international destinations with a standard set of safety protocols,” Da Silva said. “This approach is in line with procedures already in place in the countries we serve, and we look forward to learning program details in the coming weeks.”
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