HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the last two weekends, Hawaii has seen a significant uptick in visitors. They’re not pre-pandemic tourism numbers, but experts say they’re a good sign.
“You can see if you go down to Waikiki, you can feel the energy,” said Jerry Agrusa, professor at the School of Travel Industry Management at the University of Hawaii at Manoa Shidler College of Business.
“And on the beach, there was no room to sit with your towel. And also, once you know the sun starts to set, you see the lines at the restaurants.”
On Saturday, the state saw nearly 24,000 trans-Pacific travelers, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Saturday and Sunday’s numbers also reached more than 20,000.
Experts say the influx appears to be the start of a tourism recovery.
And that could mean jobs opening up.
Agrusa said one of the biggest restrictions holding Hawaii’s travel industry back are the ones imposed on international markets.
Europe is in its third wave of the virus and if those from Japan want to visit, there are still a lot of roadblocks such as expensive COVID tests.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green said that the state is working on a vaccine passport program that could be implemented mid-May.
“We have a lot of partners coming together right now,” Green said. “It’s a fairly complicated process to be able to access databases to confirm someone got their vaccine completed.”
Green is also pushing to get inter island travel restrictions lifted by mid-April since positivity rates have been fairly consistent across counties.