Neighbor islands look to gain on vaccine passports, but how much tourism is too much?

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The hospitality industry on Oahu has already been bouncing back since spring break. Industry experts believe inter-island travel will provide another big boost, especially on the neighbor islands.

The City and County of Honolulu has taken the lion’s share of tourism lately, getting nearly 386,000 visitors since March. That is almost half of the state’s 900,000 visitor arrivals.

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The tourism industry is getting ready for more inter-island travel, following the governor’s announcement to loosen restrictions for vaccinated Hawaii residents.

“I think it’s going to help it’s going to get people off of the islands to go visit outer islands and do some of these outer island stay vacations and it will help the economy start to move,” said UH Manoa Travel Industry Management professor Jerry Agrusa.

Royal Kona Resort on Hawaii Island typically welcomes more neighbor island visitors on the weekends.

“Overall I think it’s a fantastic move in the right direction, we do have quite a bit of family and friends that come and stay and workers,” general manager Jay Rubenstein said.

The hotel says it is already doing well since the holiday season and has been at 100% capacity.

But if the vaccine passport program is effective and eventually applied to trans-pacific travel, how many arrivals are too many? The state has averaged over 22,000 arrivals since Tuesday, April 13.

“There’s the sentiment that we all understand the islands operate because of tourism, but is it responsible tourism and what’s the right number?” Rubenstein pondered. “But the demand is there and we want the customer to experience the aloha spirit,”

Agrusa argues that the state was welcoming in too many visitors before the pandemic and while that has changed in the past year, he says it is about the quality of the stay and not so much the numbers.

“We don’t need 10 million tourists, we don’t need that number. What we need is seven million five hundred thousand would be my projected number, but we need those people to stay a little longer, and to spend more money,” Agrusa said

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