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 …

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.

About 60000 travelers arrive in Hawaii in first week of program requiring tests before flights

HONOLULU – Hawaii had about 60,000 travelers arrive in the islands in the first week of its pre-travel coronavirus testing program. That’s a state effort …
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A file image shows Waikiki Beach on Oahu Island, Hawaii. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

HONOLULUHawaii had about 60,000 travelers arrive in the islands in the first week of its pre-travel coronavirus testing program.

That’s a state effort to get the tourism-based economy moving again. Lt. Gov. Josh Green said Thursday that nearly 60,000 returning residents, military members, essential workers, tourists and others had been tested since Oct. 15.

The vast majority tested negative and were allowed to skip the previously required two weeks of quarantine.

Other travelers came to Hawaii without being tested. Nearly 7,300 people were ordered to quarantine upon arrival.

Is Hawaii ready for visitors? Scenes from one reopened island

Since Oct. 15, when state officials eased quarantine restrictions to allow visitors with recent negative COVID-19 test results, new arrivals have found …
Hikers watch the sunrise on Oahu.

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

In four days of roaming Oahu in October, Times photographer Kent Nishimura and I found aloha spirit and corona worries as tightly entwined as the roots of a banyan tree.

The deserted halls of the Honolulu airport were a welcome sight Oct. 15, after the startlingly large crowd of travelers in LAX’s Terminal 5, where I boarded a Hawaiian Airlines flight with middle seats empty. (The arrival process, however, now includes an extra step for officials to check your COVID-19 test results.)

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Almost all of Oahu’s beaches and most trails are open, as are hotel pools, with restrictions. Surfboard, bodyboard and paddleboard rentals are open. Since late September, most restaurants and retailers are operating at 50% capacity. Most gatherings are limited to five people; bars and nightclubs are closed.

I’ve made half a dozen visits to Hawaii over the last 20 years, and I never imagined I would spend hours searching Oahu looking for tourists and finding so few.

The Koolau mountain range from the Moli'i Fishpond.

The Koolau mountain range from the Molii Fishpond on Oahu.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

“The streets are so empty. Have you ever seen a college town in summer?” said Matthew Aguilar, who had come from San Francisco.

Every morning, I carried my brown-bag breakfast (the only kind many hotels offer at the moment) to the Waikiki Wall and watched locals swimming, bodyboarding, surfing or hanging out on the mostly empty sand.

Most afternoons I found my way to beaches elsewhere on the island, including the calm waters of Kailua Beach Park, where Popoia Island reposes offshore like a crocodile waiting to snap.

Creative burgers at a farmers market in Kailua town on Oahu.

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

In the lobby of the Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach hotel, desk clerks welcomed guests with free coffee. But there was no place to sit: All the chairs and couches were behind crime scene tape so people could not linger.

When I arrived for lunch at the indoor-outdoor Haleiwa Beach House on the North Shore, I found servers eager to seat me. But before anyone can order, you must share your contact-tracing details, a state requirement for all indoor dining rooms.

At the Waiahole Poi Factory in Kaneohe, I queued up with a dozen other customers to order slow-cooked pork, stewed squid and hand-pounded poi to go. The roadside eatery looked like an ideal place to slip into Hawaiian time and talk story with a local or two.

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But not now. A hand-lettered COVID-era sign warned, “No loitering after receiving your food,” so I ate my sack lunch on the hood of my rental car. (I ate my meals outdoors, either on patios or picnic-style.)

How did Hawaii move so fast from island time to “no loitering”?

It might be a matter of bitter experience, said professor Jonathan Kamakawiwoole Osorio, dean of the Hawaiinuiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Hanauma Bay with Koko Head in the background from a hiking trail overlooking the popular nature preserve.

State officials have closed Hanauma Bay, a popular destination for snorkeling, to visitors.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

In the century after the first Europeans reached the islands in 1778, islanders endured “practically a century of one epidemic after another killing native people off,” Kamakawiwoole Osorio said. “We went from somewhere between half a million and 800,000 people at the time of contact to fewer than 40,000 people by 1892.” The epidemics included cholera, measles, whooping cough, dysentery and influenza.

“That’s something that’s in Hawaiian minds and understandings. That’s something you really don’t mess around with,” he said.

And now that so many have seen what their home is like without 30,000 arrivals a day, he said, “Do we just run back full speed into that economy and look for as many ways as we can to bring people here? Or did we learn something?”

Hawaii Tourism Officials Expecting Average of 2000-4000 Daily Arrivals

Hawaii recently reopened its borders to tourists who pass the rigorous COVID-19 testing protocols, resulting in a massive jump in transpacific arrivals.

Hawaii recently reopened its borders to tourists who pass the rigorous COVID-19 testing protocols, resulting in a massive jump in transpacific arrivals.

According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, tourism officials revealed the number of arrivals jumped from 463 on October 14—the day before the pre-arrivals testing program went into effect—to 5,124 on October 17.

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While the influx of arrivals has been welcomed by the Hawaii tourism industry devastated by the coronavirus outbreak, the number of transpacific arrivals dropped to 2,637 on October 20, with officials now expecting an average of 2,000 to 4,000 people arrivals per day.

“The first few days were robust, but it’s been dropping off,” Pleasant Holidays CEO Jack Richards said. “I would describe the reopening as choppy.”

The hotel industry in Hawaii is still feeling the impact of COVID-19, as officials revealed most of the hotels that have reopened are only operating at around 15-to-20 percent occupancy.

For example, Oahu had a hotel occupancy of 21.3 percent in September, making it the lowest among the top 25 hotel markets in the United States and the only one with occupancy below 30 percent.

On Thursday, Hawaiian Airlines announced it would reinstate its long-awaited East Coast flights in December with twice-weekly nonstop service between Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport and Boston Logan International Airport and thrice-weekly service between Honolulu and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Auditors find lack of planning, coordination in traveler quarantine program

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) – As the state prepares to launch a traveler testing program Thursday to reboot tourism, a new audit is raising …

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) – As the state prepares to launch a traveler testing program Thursday to reboot tourism, a new audit is raising questions about the state’s oversight of its quarantine mandate and how it will be managed once federal funds run out in December.