Uncertainty around traveler testing program has many taking ‘wait-and-see’ approach

Uncertainty around traveler testing program has many taking ‘wait-and-see’ approach

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Waikiki Beach still has the sand and the surf, but the hotel rooms have remained dark since the visitor industry shut down in March.

And even with the state’s pre-travel testing program taking effect Thursday, there’s still the question of how long it will take for tourism to recover.

Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, said some hotels are going to reopen for the launch of the program on Oct. 15.

“Others are going to take a wait-and-see approach because the demand is just not there," he said.

The Sheraton Princess Kaiulani is one of the few hotels open in Waikiki.

The Sheraton Waikiki and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel will wait until at least next month. And the Outrigger Reef and Halekulani have decided to undergo renovations and reopen in 2021.

It’s not just the hotels that are hesitant.

Visitors will face testing requirements that still aren’t finalized, with different rules on every island.

“They want to know how readily available it’s going to be, what’s the cost of doing that, does my whole family have to be tested before they come to Hawaii?” said Hannemann. “And they’re also hearing some mixed messages here, that some counties want to put some additional requirements on top of that.”

Gov. David Ige verbally agreed Friday to let Hawaii County require an antigen test for out-of-state arrivals who’ve already tested negative before their flights.

The governor previously rejected Kauai’s second-test proposal, which would have required a short quarantine. Mayor Derek Kawakami is currently awaiting approval for his second proposal, which would reinstate the quarantine for all travelers if the caseload rises.

Maui County plans to urge trans-Pacific travelers to voluntarily take a second test, and Mayor Mike Victorino is separately proposing to let residents travel freely within the county.

With so much uncertainty and a daily caseload hovering in the triple digits, no one’s expecting a big rush of visitors.

“In a way it’s nice to slowly open, so that the state can adjust if they can see that oh, this is not good, you know, let’s adjust it and all that,” said Waikiki resident Rhea Ebaugh.

“I’m kinda torn. It’s a Catch-22,” said Hawaii Kai resident Shawnie Goodwin, after spending a day at the beach. “I think we definitely need the tourism back, but I’ll definitely miss this aloha and just having everybody be locals.

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