HTA doubling up its efforts to educate travelers about Hawaii’s COVID-19 rules


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Since the State of Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program began on Oct. 15, nearly 60,000 U.S. mainland travelers arrived in the state.

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Hawaii averaged about 8,000 daily arrivals in the first three days of reopening. In the last week, the state averaged about 5,000 trans-Pacific arrivals, which is well below the 29,000 daily arrivals in 2019.

Statewide, the Hawaii Tourism Authority said hotels are averaging about 20 to 25% occupancy, while several hotels remain closed.

HTA President and CEO John De Fries said that of the 217 hotels they surveyed, 145 opened or opened partially on October 15.

“I think by December 1, you can expect about another 50 to come online,” he said. “Some have chosen to spend more time preparing themselves before they fully remobilize.”

He said other hotels have decided to wait and see how the pre-travel testing program goes, whereas other hotels rely heavily on international travelers.

“The success of Hawaii moving forward is going to depend on our ability to keep this COVID curve flattened permanently,” De Fries said. “It’s the only way that we can take the steps over the next two to three years, to begin to open at scale.”

Throughout the first week, many residents reported that visitors were not wearing masks or adhering to local rules. Some said that they were met with snide remarks from visitors when they advised them of the rules.

But Honolulu Police Department Chief Susan Ballard said that the majority of people violating county rules were residents.

“None of us should tolerate any kind of belligerent or, or confrontational conduct from anyone,” De Fries said. “Regardless of whether you reside here or you visit here, the virus doesn’t know the difference. So my suggestion is, if you encounter people who are not wearing a mask, I would encourage people to confront them in a way that’s friendly and hospitable.”

He said education is picking up at the airport and more signage will be around all airports and at baggage claim.

“We all need to do our part, but at HTA we will continue to double up on our efforts, and you are going to start seeing more signage, more reminders and baggage claim,” he said.

He said Governor David Ige has also done a personal message that will be viewed at airports statewide.

“Until we can get this behavioral change moving, we will have to continue, you know, repetitively doing this,” De Fries said.

“Everybody in the world knows you’re supposed to wear a mask. Not everyone will. If they don’t. They’re going to get cited by the police,” explained Lieutenant Governor Josh Green.

Since Oct. 15, there have been about 7,500 visitors and residents who were required to quarantine. They were either awaiting test results or they opted out of the state’s pre-travel testing program.

De Fries said hotels are issuing one-time keys to visitors who are in quarantine.

“Once you exit your room, you’re unable to get back in, which will trigger the security, you’ll return to the front desk to get a new key. And at that point, the staff has been advised to call security or law enforcement,” he explained.

He said that hotels have sectioned off floors, or wings, to accommodate visitors who may contract COVID-19 while on vacation. He said if staying at the hotel exceeds their ability to afford it, they’ll be referred to the state to find interim quarantine housing.

Lt. Gov. Green said a small percent of travelers will come in positive with Covid-19, about 1 in 1,000.

“Of the first 6,100 tests that were done on Big Island, follow up test, two were positive out of over 6,000,” he said.

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