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Hawaii's Tourism Industry Waits for Next Steps

Melissa Chang via AP
This April 16, 2020, photo provided by Melissa Chang shows an empty street in Honolulu's tourist mecca Waikiki.

Leaders in Hawaii's tourism industry are waiting for a definitive date on when they can reopen. They're also preparing to reopen safely and giving a lot of thought to what the future of the industry might look like.

PBN interviewed tourism leaders about their preparations and expectations about the industry reopening, with a missing date looming in the background: When will Hawaii end the mandatory, two-week self-quarantine rule?

Keith Vieira, principal of KV & Associates, Hospitality Consulting, told PBN that if the quarantine were lifted in the next few weeks, there was a chance that travel to the Islands could increase significantly by December, normally a peak period. But he warned, "If that drags on longer, you are going to see more and more entities — restaurants, maybe even hotels — that will not reopen."

Governor David Ige has announced that the self-quarantine period will be extended through the end of July. Six more weeks.

Meanwhile, the industry grapples with enormous costs and little to no revenue. Visits in April were down 99.5% year-over-year according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Lt. Governor Josh Green this week said on Instagram that the state is working with health and tourism partners on possible testing regimes by which travelers to Hawaii could prove they are COVID-free. He described such a testing protocol as a precondition for lifting the self-quarantine.

Meanwhile, tourism leaders are aware of the desire to diversify Hawaii's economy. For Vieira, tourism and diversification are not mutually exclusive, saying that the state's best bet for such an evolution is to leverage it through the money and energy surrounding tourism itself. Wellness and agriculture are two such industries that could benefit from a closer relationship to Hawaii's number one employer.

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