Governor Ige says tourism’s return October 1 is unlikely, pilot programs could come first

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Governor David Ige said Monday that it is unlikely that trans-Pacific travel will reopen without the state’s mandatory 14-day travel quarantine before the tentatively scheduled date of Oct. 1.

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With the third push-back dragging on the state’s devastated economy, what can be done in the meantime?

“As I told the governor today I support opening up with a pretesting program before Oct. 1 if possible,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said. “At the end of the day there are many stakeholders involved, but I do think starting a program as long as we have a robust data input system in place, which I think is there and needs to be tested, we need to start.”

University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization Executive Director Carl Bonham wants time for businesses to prepare.

“The plan for reopening tourism needs to happen,” Bonham said.

Marketing the state to potential visitors is also in the works.

“Our Hawaii Tourism Authority branding team has been working with our global marketing partners – the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau and Hawaii Tourism Japan – in preparation for the reopening of tourism,” HTA Interim President & CEO Keith Regan told KHON2 News. “This includes the development of numerous videos and other materials to support this messaging. We have set aside funding to relaunch our opening initiatives with our two strongest markets. We are awaiting Gov. Ige’s announcement regarding the reopening date, the requirements, and travel-related restrictions that might be part of the reopening message.”

Bonham thinks it’s imperative to get the pre-testing program up and running as soon as possible, even if it is before the quarantine is lifted.

“Even before we get back down to those 40 to 50 cases a day,” said Bonham. “It needs to be firm so that businesses can start to plan so the airlines can plan to bring back lift. Right now we’re flying in hundreds and hundreds of visitors every day.”

Last week Governor Ige said a pre-testing pilot program for inter-island travel is in the works.

“We are completing the inter-island to be the prelude for the trans-pacific so it the same testing but we’re trying to test it inter-island first to see how effective we can be with it,” Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino said.

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami announced Monday that the Garden Isle will begin to allow resort bubbles, where quarantined guests could use the entire hotel facility.

Bonham says both programs would also allow for bugs to be worked out before tourism returns.

“It gives us an opportunity to start small right and roll this thing out,” said Bonham. “It may be that some of the bubbles that are being set up will help to get that further along. We just need to finalize a plan so that also so that it can be publicly available and we can get criticism of it and we can react to the criticism with changes where necessary.”

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