Las Vegas and Orlando are welcoming back tourists. Some ask: Why not Hawaii?

As Las Vegas and Orlando reopen, Hawaii tourism still sits idle

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As competing destinations reopen for tourism, Hawaii’s visitor industry remains idle ― and there’s still no timeline for when tourists will be welcomed back.

In Orlando, Universal Studio’s theme park will reopen Friday.

Guests will wear face masks and their temperatures will checked when they enter.

Similar precautions are in store at Boyd Gaming’s California Hotel & Casino ― a popular Las Vegas venue for Hawaii visitors. The hotel reopened Thursday, ending a 78-day lockdown.

“There will be things like when you come on to our property, youʻll walk by a thermal imaging camera that will be able to tell us quickly if you have a fever or not,” said David Strow, Boyd’s vice president for corporate communications.

“Youʻll be asked when you come on property to wear a face mask. If you donʻt have one, we will provide you with one. That is something very new for us that we havenʻt done before.”

The reopenings are bringing a glimmer of hope to these mainland cities, whose economies have been crippled by the coronavirus pandemic.

Hawaii has one of the lowest per-capita coronavirus infection rates in the country, but there’s no timetable for reopening its no. 1 industry.

And that’s frustrating some local businesses and unemployed workers.

The opening of the competing destinations could attract people who might have come to Hawaii. It might also lure away thousands of Hawaii workers.

Earlier this week, University of Hawaii economist Carl Bonham warned lawmakers that tens of thousands of Hawaii workers could leave the state for opportunities on the mainland.

“If you don’t have family ties in Hawaii and you were working in tourism here and your unemployment benefits run out there is absolutely nothing to keep you here," he said.

“Even people with deep family ties will be drawn to other parts of the country where tourists can drive."

Gov. David Ige still will not say when Hawaii will reopen for mainland travelers. He said he wants to be sure they won’t bring a new wave of infection with them.

During a recent interview with Hawaii News Now, he detailed what level of risk he felt comfortable with. When asked if Hawaii could handle 30 cases a day and not shut down, he said, “I do believe we can do that."

What about 300 cases or 1,000? “Well then it’s a different story. So that’s not acceptable,” he said.

Ige and other experts said triple-digit daily cases would overwhelm the island’s hospital system.

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