Economists say tourism could restart in late July


Experts say tourism can start picking up by the end of July. Along with that, more than 100,000 people unemployed could be back to work by the end of the year.

Economist Carl Bonham told the House Committee on COVID-19 that with the gradual reopening of businesses this month, considerably more will do so by the end of the year. But by no means will the state be fully recovered by then.

“By the end of the year, we anticipate the local economy having regained about 75% of the lost activity. We don’t get back to normal for a whole variety of reasons,” said Bonham.

He says the state could reopen to visitors by the end of July. And by September we could regain 28 percent of tourism compared to its peak.

There’s good and bad news in unemployment as 50% of the jobs will be recovered by the end of the year. But that still leaves more than 100,000 people unemployed.

All this is contingent on the state increasing its capacity to do rapid testing and contact tracing of visitors coming in. But the incident commander also testified that the State Department of Health is pushing back on ramping up those measures.

“We’re working with the governor to try to convince them by way of a formal order now, that this is important. We’re all aligned. It’s just kind of frustrating trying to convince DOH that it’s important,” said Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, Incident Commander.

The governor says DOH is on board and calls it a misunderstanding.

“It’s not so much pushing back as much as the acknowledgement that we do have the personnel to handle the general case count. The general has been planning for the worst case scenario where we see hundreds of cases instead of the one or two or ten that we’re seeing now,” said Gov. David Ige.

The governor adds that the health department is already working with staff to increase its contact tracing capability. And the DOH director acknowledges its importance in moving forward.

“The DOH has been very effective in dealing with these issues and recently added another 30 or so volunteers to help with surge capacity and we have options to increase even further if we need to,” said director Dr. Bruce Anderson.

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