Tourism officials optimistic about early visitor arrival numbers

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Of the more than 8,200 people who flew in from the U.S. mainland on the first day of Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program, the Hawaii Tourism Authority reported that around 3,100 were visitors.

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Tourism numbers are a long way from getting back to normal, but industry leaders are optimistic.

If you drive through Waikiki, it won’t look that much different but officials said that they’re actually pleasantly surprised at the numbers. The head of the Hawaii Tourism Authority said that he also expects daily arrivals to taper off all the way through the end of the year.

“I think we’re gonna see a daily average of roughly at around 5,000. I think it will even itself out. I think in the early days you have this pent up demand,” said HTA President and CEO John De Fries.

He pointed out that even if Hawaii gets 5,000 to 8,000 a day, that amount will be manageable, and will allow the state to work out whatever problems arise. Among the early glitches, hundreds didn’t get tested and had to quarantine. De Fries said that the state is getting more partners who can provide them with COVID-19 tests.

“I expect that he’s getting more proposals on wanting to participate in the Hawaii program and that will help offset the impact on the demand,” said De Fries.

The head of the hotel industry says that the hotels operating now have been dealing with quarantine rules since they began, so the hotels are prepared.

“So they were very used to the quarantine policy, how to go forward and execute that, as well as the cooperation that’s needed with law enforcement officials for anyone that wants to observe the quarantine rules,” said Mufi Hannemann, who is the president of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association.

Hannemann said that the hotels are at about 20% occupancy right now, so many of them don’t plan to reopen until next month, with the hope that tourism gradually increases. He cautions that in addition to keeping the COVID cases down, the state also needs to make sure that visitors know that not all attractions will be open, so they’re not disappointed.

“It’s an opportunity to be creative, to still try to give them a good experience here and perhaps really ensure that they want to come back, or more importantly, they’ll go back on the mainland and say you know, it’s not that bad to take a pre-test,” said Hannemann.

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