Hawaii has probably the most severe travel restrictions of any state. These restrictions certainly put the brakes on tourism by enforcing a 14-day lodging quarantine period. The island’s economy revolves around tourism which has come to a halt. As of today, the unemployment rate in Hawaii has peaked at 37.3%. The restrictions not only affected visitors from outside of Hawaii, but travel was also stopped between neighboring islands. Imagine not being able to travel outside of your county to go to a neighboring county. Hawaii will remove the inter-island restriction beginning on June 16, 2020.
The Current Hawaii Travel Restrictions
Hawaii Governor David Ige placed the 14-day quarantine in effect that was supposed to expire on May 31, 2020. This action was extended through the end of June and I suspect there will be an announcement soon on the status of the quarantine for people living outside of Hawaii. While the quarantine was certainly an aggressive measure, Hawaii has experienced a very low number of infected residents per capita. The restrictions have paid off for Hawaii as the state ranks 49th in the number of infections at 653 cases but it has come at an incredible economic toll. Temporary closures have impacted many hotels, restaurants, stores and tourist attractions. The state has to look at how to balance the economy with the health of island residents.
The First Step
Hawaii will begin a soft opening on Tuesday, June 16th where people traveling between islands will not be subject to the 14-day quarantine. In making the announcement at Honolulu’s Daniel K Inouye International Airport, Governor Ige again stated “your health comes first”. Peter Ingram, CEO and President of Hawaiian Airlines which is the largest air carrier in Hawaii and the state’s largest private employer was in attendance. Hawaii State House Speaker Scott Saiki said:
“We are all on the same page. The overarching concern was not so much about restarting the economy – although that was part of it – but, rather, about safety.”
Lt. Governor, Josh Green said:
“Comprehensive screening will be part of the plan. So it will be very safe.”
The State expects that cases will likely increase but they say they have enough systems and capacity in place to keep the virus from spreading significantly.
Inter-island passengers should expect to face new policies and procedures. These changes will include a new form to fill out with travel information and temperature checks of arriving passengers.
What It Will Take To Reopen Hawaii
Unlike most states, the consensus in Hawaii is that residents are more concerned about safety than the economy. A poll in late May showed that 71% of island residents supported both the stay-at-home orders and the 14-day quarantine for arrivals to Hawaii. What businesses in Hawaii need sooner than later is some idea to when Hawaii will reopen. Most visitors to Hawaii make plans well in advance so they can’t make plans until they have a good idea when they will be welcome to the islands.
As far as to procedures for a general reopening of Hawaii, state officials will rely on health officials to adopt new measures for people arriving in Hawaii. Attorney General Clare Conners said in a House Committee hearing that Hawaii can’t make testing a condition for travel to Hawaii but they can develop and institute screening procedures and other measures.
Travel Codex will continue to monitor the travel situation for Hawaii and will provide an update when an announcement is made.