Maui Business Leaders Push To Join Western States Pact, Ige Demurs

Apr 28, 2020

Five governors have now joined a coalition of Western U.S. states developing common standards for reopening their economies. Hawaii’s executive remains reluctant.

The leaders of California, Oregon, and Washington State announced the Western States Pact two weeks ago. Yesterday, the governors of Colorado and Nevada announced their states will also join. The working group is meant to coordinate efforts regionally, as state authorities begin moving toward reopening their economies.

At a meeting of the state House of Representative’s COVID-19 response committee on Monday,  Maui Chamber of Commerce President Pamela Tumpap told local officials that she would like Hawaii to join the pact as well.

“Health officials and governors are developing plans and setting reopening parameters, including interstate travel and tourism, so that people can do this with a high level of confidence after COVID-19,” Tumpap said.

Local economists say consumer confidence that travel is safe will be a major driver of how Hawaii’s $18 billion tourism sector recovers. University of Hawaii economists say that resuming tourism, which accounts for roughly 23% of the state’s economic activity, represents a much greater challenge than reopening businesses that primarily cater to Hawaii residents.

Travelers from the United States account for almost two-thirds of Hawaii’s 10 million annual visitors. Residents of western states typically account for just under 40% of the total, the largest share of any group.

Tumpap says that joining the western states pact would be an important step toward generating confidence in residents in the region that Hawaii is taking the same safety measures as their home states.

House Speaker Scott Saiki, who chairs to COVID-19 response committee, said he does not see any harm in joining the pact. But the decision lies with Gov. David Ige, who has previously stated that he will not join because Hawaii is not connected by land to the other members.

In an email, a spokesperson for the governor said Hawaii will work with the coalition, but the administration does not view it as being critical to coordinating policy changes and activities with other state governments.