Hawaii tourism

Return of domestic air travel will be a boon for Hawaii tourism

Hawaiian Airlines and Southwest Airlines are restoring service in time for the August 1 launch of a COVID-19 passenger testing program that will allow Hawaii’s tourism industry to reopen to out-of-state visitors. State.

The additional domestic airlift is a critical step in rebuilding Hawaii’s tourism industry, which collapsed in March amid COVID-19 fears and government shutdowns and has yet to return.

However, international air travel to Hawaii still remains suspended due to restrictions on inbound travel. This lag will hurt Oahu — where some Waikiki hotels have historically relied on strong bookings from Japan, Oceania and Canada — far more than neighboring islands.

Visitors tend not to like the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for transpacific passengers that has been in place since March 26. The Hawaii Tourism Authority reported Monday that only 9,116 visitors traveled to Hawaii by air and cruise ship in May compared to 841,376 during the same period a year ago. HTA reported that only 436 visitors came to Hawaii on Tuesday.

Hawaiian Airlines announced on Wednesday that it is resuming most of its mainland US routes and increasing its schedules to neighboring islands, although international service remains suspended.

Southwest Airlines announced in mid-June that it would restore its interisland and mainland service to Hawaii to pre-COVID levels on August 1 with the launch of its San Diego to Honolulu service. Southwest’s July schedule will resemble its June schedule.

The carriers’ decisions follow Governor David Ige’s announcement last week that beginning August 1, the state would allow passengers with approved negative COVID-19 tests taken within 72 hours of traveling to Hawaii to circumvent the state’s mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for foreign passengers. The out-of-state quarantine runs until July 31 and is expected to be extended.

“The layered safety measures put in place to protect the health of our local communities promise to make travel to and from Hawaii more accessible than in recent months,” said Peter Ingram, President and CEO. of Hawaiian Airlines, in a press release. “We look forward to welcoming guests on board who support and adhere to the protocols in place for responsible travel, including our visitors and kamaaina reconnecting with family and friends in the continental United States.”

Hawaiian began daily service between Honolulu and Portland, Oregon on Wednesday. It will add once-daily service to San Diego and Sacramento, Calif., on July 15.

Beginning Aug. 1, the carrier said it plans to restore nonstop service from six mainland U.S. cities to Honolulu, including Boston; New York; Vegas; Phoenix; San Jose, California, and Oakland, California. Hawaiian said it also plans to resume some West Coast routes to nearby islands with its narrow-body Airbus A321neo aircraft, including Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and Sacramento, to Kahului, Maui; Los Angeles and Oakland to Lihue, Kauai; and Los Angeles to Kona on the island of Hawaii.

Beginning August 6, Hawaiian plans to resume weekly service between Honolulu and American Samoa.

The announcements match what Brad DiFiore, managing director of Ailevon Pacific Aviation Consulting, predicted at the Pacific Asia Travel Association’s Hawaii Economic Forum last month.

Pre-coronavirus schedules had monthly seat capacity in Hawaii up 7% for April, May and June, DiFiore said. But the schedule reductions have been dramatic, resulting in an 89% decrease and almost no international capacity, he added.

DiFiore’s 2020 airline outlook shows domestic travel will drive Hawaii’s initial recovery, which won’t happen until the quarantine is lifted. The domestic recovery will initially focus on West Coast markets and a handful of central inland markets, he said.

DiFiore added that restoring Hawaii’s hardest-hit international air service won’t happen until quarantines are lifted at both ends. Border restrictions vary, but all foreign countries in early June still required 14-day quarantines upon returning from the United States, he said.

The state is pursuing travel agreements that would ease restrictions in Hawaii for countries like Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand where COVID-19 cases and deaths have been low. However, insiders say the toll of COVID-19 cases in the United States as a whole is hampering Hawaii’s progress.

Eric Takahata, general manager of Hawaii Tourism Japan, said Hawaii’s proposal to form a travel corridor with Japan was submitted to the Japanese government about a week and a half ago and the ball is now in court. from Japan.

“We know it reached the prime minister and the foreign minister, but we are still waiting for a response,” Takahata said. “The Japanese government should separate us from the rest of the United States”

Takahata said Hawaii has asked the Japanese government to allow visitors from Japan who come to Hawaii to bypass quarantine when returning home. Hawaii officials have also asked them to reduce the travel advisory for Hawaii to level 1. Currently, Hawaii and the rest of the United States are at level 3, which means that the Japanese government strongly advises against travelers coming .

“No one flies to Hawaii from Japan now, but they would if we had a travel corridor,” Takahata said. “The demand is there. I get about 20 calls a day from visitors – some are even willing to take a PR-C (nasal swab) test to come here.

Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club general manager Lynette Eastman said more Hawaiian and Southwestern services could improve national momentum. However, this will not be enough to fill the rooms of the hundred or so hotels that are open or to reactivate the approximately 130 hotels that are still closed.

“Our July is full of hope, we’re at 60% occupancy due to the military and a sprinkling of kamaaina travellers,” Eastman said. “But I’m really worried about the fall which is at a worrying 10% occupancy or less.”

Eastman said California travelers are Surfjack’s third-best market, but Japan ranks first and Australia ranks second.

“Japan and Australia are not going to come here if their countries make it difficult for them when they come back,” she said. “Also, there are a lot of cases happening in California. Some people are waiting to see what happens, although more flights make getting here easier for those willing to travel.