On Friday, Hawaii’s Governor Ige had a press conference at which he announced extended orders and other rules important to visitors. But not so fast. There’s much more to the story. And let’s just say that visitor arrivals, the Hawaii travel industry stakeholders, and the state’s COVID numbers all appear to be on a somewhat different trajectory than the Governor. And one island plans to change up some things even this week.
Governor Ige asks visitors to continue to stay away from Hawaii, for now.
On Friday, Ige asked that visitors continue to postpone Hawaii vacations at least through the end of November. Ige said he is working with Hawaii’s travel stakeholders to encourage tourism again once COVID numbers trend down lower. The governor first suggested that Hawaii visitors “stay away” on August 23.
Among other rules, the current indoor mask mandate will continue through November. So too will Hawaii Safe Travels rules requiring vaccination or proof of negative COVID test before Hawaii travel.
The governor continues to be concerned about Hawaii’s average daily case count, which he said at that time was still above 300. Today, however, that number is 259 over the past 14-days, and today’s count was only 195 cases statewide. In August the average number was approaching 1,000.
The rapid decline in cases and other data in Hawaii could even result in further changes. But the governor didn’t allude to that, and so it is just our speculation at this time.
Furthermore, having withdrawn his prior suggestion that at 70% vaccinated, the State would drop its Covid travel restrictions, the governor said there are no longer specific metrics he is considering in that regard. Ige said, “the response that I got from the professionals is that they could not see a single metric that would be appropriate to trigger action to either restrict or expand or release restrictions.”
BOH: Clarity of policies and consensus-building have never been strong points here in Hawaii. How is it where you live?
Hawaii travel industry and visitors don’t concur with the governor’s request.
The Hawaii travel industry has continued to promote Hawaii tourism without regard to the governor’s request, which came without any enforcement. There have been widespread Hawaii airfare sales from every airline that serves Hawaii and those will continue. And it isn’t just the airlines.
Visitors are flocking to Hawaii in significant numbers. While those numbers are down somewhat from 2019 (the last useful comparison year), they are still significant, with Hawaii seeing well north of 15,000 domestic arrivals daily, per the State’s arrivals chart below.
Hawaii domestic passenger arrivals
Could restrictions be lifted sooner than currently planned?
Even since the governor’s announcement last Friday, Hawaii Covid numbers have declined. So, it is possible that changes could occur sooner than later. Ige said, “the industry did let me know that it does take time to ramp up. They would like at least two weeks notice ahead of any significant change.”
Honolulu rule changes are planned starting this week.
On Oahu, where the Safe Access Oahu vaccination passport was initiated last month, changes are afoot. Mayor Rick Blangiardi plans this week to reduce the curfew requirements he previously spearheaded.
Alcohol service has been stopped with a 10 pm curfew since the new program began. Oahu plans to change that to be 12 midnight. Normally Oahu serves alcohol until 2 am.
According to the Hawaii Restaurant Association, Oahu restaurants have seen a nearly 50% drop in revenue since the implementation of the latest rules.
Restaurants on both Oahu and Maui are responsible for monitoring that customers follow the latest rules requiring vaccination or testing within the past 48-hours. It hasn’t been easy as customers aren’t always happy to comply with those demands and restaurant staff are challenged.
Maui’s rules are slightly different from Honolulu’s since guests on Maui who do not comply can eat outside. Both sets of regulations reduced restaurant and bar capacity to 50%, however.