HONOLULU — A survey conducted by the Hawaii Tourism Authority has found that visitors to the islands between late December and early January were pleased despite limitations caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
A majority of visitors who traveled to Hawaii from the continental U.S. said their pre-travel testing through the Hawaii Safe Travels program went smoothly.
Nearly 90% of visitors surveyed reported their visits were "excellent."
The survey conducted between Dec. 21 and Jan. 4 gauged visitor experiences with the state-operated Safe Travels program and overall trip satisfaction.
Among those who said they were unhappy with their trips, 39% said their dissatisfaction was rooted in a lack of available activities in the midst of the pandemic.
Only 29% of respondents claimed they were able to do everything they hoped for during their trips, with the majority citing various coronavirus effects as reasons for skipping activities.
Travelers submitting to the Safe Travels program can submit negative results from virus tests taken no more than 72 hours before arriving to avoid a 10-day quarantine.
Less than 1% of respondents were unaware of the state's pre-arrival testing protocols before leaving their home states.
Yet the survey found 21% of respondents experienced problems during pre-travel testing. Within that group, 46% said the 72-hour window for testing before flights was unreasonable.
Other difficulties included 15% percent who said test results did not arrive on time before departure and 37% percent who had difficulty finding trusted partners to perform tests.
Ross Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau, said travel partners on the West Coast have been overwhelmed by the volume of travelers and take longer to process results.
While there are fewer partners on the East Coast, they produce results more quickly, Birch said.
Even as visitors return, tourist businesses may need more time to financially recover.
"If you have a tour operator with a bus that holds 20 people and he only can host four to six passengers, then the numbers just don't work out," Birch said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.