Hawaii Gets Tourism Surge as Coronavirus Rules Loosen Up | Hawaii News

HONOLULU (AP) — Tourists are traveling to Hawaii in larger numbers than officials anticipated and

HONOLULU (AP) — Tourists are traveling to Hawaii in larger numbers than officials anticipated and many are wandering around Waikiki without masks, despite a statewide mandate to wear them in public.

Hawaii’s “Safe Travels” program reported that about 28,000 people flew into and throughout the islands on Saturday, the highest number of travelers in a single day since the pandemic began, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

Before the pandemic, Hawaii had about 30,000 arrivals daily. When quarantine rules were put in place early in the pandemic, arrivals plummeted and the state’s tourism-dependent economy tanked.

In October, state officials launched a pre-travel testing program that allowed visitors to sidestep quarantine rules, but travel remained sluggish until the second week in March, when spring break tourists started arriving in the islands.

Travel company Pleasant Holidays president and CEO Jack Richards told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the agency’s bookings increased 30% over the last two weeks.

“We haven’t seen travel demand for Hawaii this strong for over a year,” Richards said. “I thought we would have a U-shaped recovery; it’s V-shaped. January and February were terrible, but we’ve gone from zero to 150 mph in two weeks.”

Hawaii News Now reported that officials are receiving complaints about visitors not wearing masks. With a few exceptions, people in Hawaii are still required to wear masks while in public.

“I’m a believer that if you’re outdoors, you can remove it,” said Glenn Day, a visitor from Indiana.

Visitors said rules in their home states are different than those in place in Hawaii.

“We carry our masks around and if we walk into an establishment we’ll wear one, and if people look like they’re uncomfortable with us around, we’ll put one on. But otherwise, like I said where we come from, people are really not required to wear them,” said Wisconsin visitor Larry Dopke.

“I’m not wearing one right now, I’m outdoors,” said Todd Hasley who was visiting from Idaho. “Boise city has an indoor mask mandate. The rest of the state has a mask recommendation.”

Some lawmakers expressed concern about a possible backlash from residents.

“I think we’re all going to have to be prepared for a potential surge in tourism,” said Hawaii state Rep. Scott Saiki, a Democrat. “I think we have to be prepared because the public may have a response to a sudden surge.”

Such a reaction could hinder economic recovery.

“Pushing back against tourism is the same thing as telling your neighbor they shouldn’t have a job,” said Carl Bonham, University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization Executive Director.

Hawaii requires all visitors and returning residents to get negative pre-travel COVID-19 tests before flying to the state to be exempt from the 10-day quarantine rule.

The island of Kauai has additional measures that will be in place until April 5.

All visitors to Kauai must either spend three days on another island or quarantine at a county-approved resort for three days and then get second, post-arrival tests.

Hawaii has had among the lowest rates of confirmed coronavirus infections in the U.S.

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