Hawaii Pushes Back Return Date for Tourists Again
Hawaii once again officially pushed back the date that tourists who test negative for COVID-19 could return to the islands without quarantining this week.
The government is also allowing counties to pursue creating “resort travel bubbles” that would allow quarantining visitors to roam in certain areas of resorts.
Originally, tourists with a negative COVID test were going to be welcomed back to the islands on August 1. That timeframe has now been pushed back twice to “at least” Oct. 1 after a spike in cases on Oahu, government officials said.
The travel bubble idea is in the early stages. Currently, if visitors travel between islands or from other areas of the U.S. or the world, they must observe a strict 14-day quarantine and are not allowed to leave their hotel room.
The new idea would allow them to roam in some areas of participating hotels. They would be monitored by wearing a geofencing device that would alert authorities if they moved outside of the designated areas.
It is unclear how many resorts – and tourists – would be interested in that kind of program.
Initially, Hawaii had very low case counts during the pandemic. However, a recent spike in cases, largely on Oahu, has led to increased restrictions and further delays to welcoming back tourists. Since Aug. 1, the state has recorded nearly 3,000 new cases which is more than was reported from March to July.
In addition to beaches, parks and hiking trails being closed, Oahu residents can now not have any gathering over five people indoors or outdoors.
Hawaii is one of the most important markets to the surf industry. But with the tourist restrictions that the state has implemented because of COVID-19, the islands have turned into one of the most challenging spots to do business in the world.
Tourism is the largest single source of private capital for Hawaii’s economy, and visitors spend $18 billion a year in the state, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. That equates to an average of $48 million in spending per day.
One top surf industry executive whose company has several stores on the islands said unfortunately, Hawaii is now in one of the worst case scenarios. Before, while the economy was hurting because of the lack of tourists, at least cases were contained. Now, the virus has grown in the state and the economy is severely damaged.
Hawaii officials did say this week however that the spike in new cases has leveled off somewhat and hospital bed usage was lower than projected.