Hawaii tourism

Low COVID-19 rate key to restoring tourism in Hawaii

The low number of COVID-19 cases in Hawaii and the acceleration of the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines should play a key role in the recovery of tourism in Hawaii, which should be boosted next month when Kauai joins the Safe Travels program. Hawaii.

State Department of Health officials reported one new coronavirus-related death in Maui on Sunday and 53 new infections statewide, bringing the state’s total since the start of the pandemic to 445 deaths and 27,891. virus case.

Sunday’s new statewide infection cases include 25 in Oahu, 12 in Maui, eight on the island of Hawaii, two in Kauai and six residents diagnosed outside of Hawaii, officials say. of state health. The statistics released on Sunday mirror new cases of infection reported to the department on Friday.

By island, Oahu has 339 active cases, Maui has 272, the Big Island has 41 and Kauai has six.

The low number of cases, especially on Kauai, was part of the reason Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami applied to join Safe Travels Hawaii and Gov. David Ige approved the request on Friday.

Starting April 5, travelers to Kauai who follow Safe Travels rules and test negative before arrival can avoid the island’s 10-day quarantine.

Travel to Kauai plummeted after Kawakami withdrew from the Safe Travels program, effective Dec. 2, requiring all travelers to Kauai to undergo a mandatory 10-day quarantine without the ability to test.

Starting Jan. 5, Kauai ended the month-long tourism shutdown by allowing inter-island passengers to participate in Hawaii Safe Travels and introducing its own Trans-Pacific Entry Program. But those changes have done little to boost tourism in Kauai, which has lagged behind the rest of the state due to its stricter travel requirements.

In January, the year-over-year decline in visitor arrivals to the rest of the islands ranged from 72% on Maui to 79% on the island of Hawaii, nearly 85% on Oahu and nearly 97% in Kauai.

In January, visitor spending on Kauai was $10.2 million, down nearly 95% from the same month in 2020. Total visit days were also down nearly 90% from compared to January 2020. There were 3,987 visitors to Kauai in January, compared to 113,847 visitors a year ago.

Members of the visitor industry, even outside of Kauai, said confusion surrounding entry requirements for cross-island travel has contributed to fairly lackluster tourism results across the state. Several visitor industry leaders testified in support of House Bill 1286, which would require consistent statewide requirements for Safe Travels Hawaii.

Carl Bonham, executive director of the University of Hawaii’s Economic Research Organization, said this week on www.Covidpau.org that the recovery of tourism, along with robust vaccine distribution and federal spending are critical to Hawaii’s economic recovery.

Bonham said Hawaii has gone from 660,000 employees before the pandemic to around 500,000.

“We lost about 160,000 jobs at the start of the pandemic,” he said. “It recovered a bit when we reopened after the first shutdown; then we lost some more when Oahu went closed again.

Bonham said the number of jobs rose to 590,000 after Safe Travels opened in October.

“We saw a good month of February; we expect a good spring break; but the summer season is really crucial,” he said. “Our forecast is that around 40,000 more people will return to work in 2021.”

Bonham said up to 60% to 70% of U.S. travelers and Hawaii residents could be vaccinated by summer and that it will be important to communicate the travel process in June and July when the risk of COVID-19 will have decreased significantly. .

The state’s COVID-19 vaccine summary said Friday that 391,116 vaccines were administered of the 496,050 received by the state. About 16% of Hawaii’s general population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, while about 64% of people age 75 and older have received one dose.

Bonham said while more federal money is expected to support Hawaii’s economy, it will run out. When it does, Hawaii should have recovered tourism and more local economies.

“We need to have a strong enough return to sustain employment so that we don’t set the country back too far over the next few years,” he said.

A UHERO forecast released on Friday estimated that if the full recovery of tourism was still several years away, arrivals would recover half of their pandemic losses by July and visitor spending would recover nearly 70% of their losses by July. end of the year.

UHERO has forecast visitor arrivals to reach more than 4.9 million this year and visitor spending to reach nearly $9.3 billion. In 2019, no fewer than 10.4 million visitors came to Hawaii and spent over $17.9 billion.