West Coast states urge against travel, putting Hawaii’s fragile tourism recovery at risk

Updated: Nov. 16, 2020 at 4:28 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Portland resident Chris Wright and his wife visited Maui seven years ago and were planning another Hawaii vacation in December.

But they’ll likely postpone their trip after West Coast governors issued travel advisories last week, urging residents not make non-essential trips out of state and if they do, to quarantine upon return.

“We were already struggling whether or not it was a good idea to be traveling anyway,” said Wright.

Those advisories are drawing concern among Hawaii travel officials, who worry they could derail the fragile tourism recovery seen since the state launched its pre-travel testing program in October.

John De Fries, President and CEO of Hawaii Tourism Authority, said he does expect the travel advisories to have an impact ― but not a huge one.

“I think those who are within a 30-day window of booking will stay with that," he said. “I think you might see some fall off. I think you might see some fall off in terms of more elderly rethinking it.”

Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, is also worried about the fallout. “We don’t know how much that impact would be,” he said.

“But I think the more that we do a good job of welcoming visitors here and try to make them feel in this new normal that they are operating under, you can still have a quality vacation here in Hawaii.”

University of Hawaii economists say West Coast cases add to Hawaii’s uncertainty, but the good news is there’s been no significant Halloween spike in cases here and the economy is improving.

“Numbers are coming in stronger than we expected so we’ll raise that, but the size of the potential outbreak on the mainland that looks set to break records, that is very concerning,” said Carl Bonham, executive director of University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization.

One UH travel professor sees a bright side: Travelers may see Hawaii as a safe place to take a vacations to escape the mainland scourge.

“People are saying I want out I want out I’ve been cooped up," said Jerry Agrusa, a UH Travel Industry Management professor.

“I think it’s both cooped up in their homes and cooped up in those little cities."

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